(director/writer: Teodora Ana Mihai; screenwriter: Habacue Antonio De Rosario; cinematographer: Marius Panduru; editor: Alain Dessauvage; music: Jean-Stephane Garbe/Hugo Lippens; cast: Arcelia Ramirez (Cielo), Alvaro Guerrero (Gustavo), Jorge A Jimenez (Lamarque), Denisse Azpilcueta (Laura), Ayelen Muzo (Robles), Daniel Garcia (El Puma); Runtime: 145; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hans Everaert; Zeitgeist; 2023-Belgium/Romania/Mexico-in Spanish with English subtitles)

“It’s a realistic but harrowing tale, right out of today’s headlines.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A kidnapping flick set in Northern Mexico by the Belgian-Romanian documentarian Teodora Ana Mihai (“Waiting for August”), who co-writes it with the Texas born Mexican Habacue Antonio De Rosario. It follows one mother’s desperate fight to retrieve her daughter from a Mexican gang of kidnappers.

The drug cartel, through a character named El Puma (
Daniel Garcia), contacts the middle-aged housewife Cielo (Arcelia Ramirez) for ransom, telling her if she doesn’t pay she’ll never see her daughter Laura (Denisse Azpilcueta) again. But Cielo has no money. Her estranged husband (Alvaro Guerrero) squandered any money he had on his girlfriend. Meanwhile the police and military decline any help, at first. With no other choices, Cielo must find her daughter on her own. Her love is so great for her daughter, she’s willing to do anything.

It’s a realistic but harrowing tale, right out of today’s headlines. Though I’m totally sympathetic to Cielo’s plight and angered by the initial lack of a response by the corrupt Mexican government, I found it a tough movie to sit through even if well-acted and conceived.

There have been at least 12 other films on the same topic, and I have seen several of them. This one rates as one of the better ones.

It played at the Cannes Film Festival.

A mother takes on the gangs