(director/writer: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez; cinematographer: Ximena Amann; editors: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Susan Korda; music: Astrid Rondero; cast: Juan Jesús Varela (Sujo, teen), Yadira Perez Esteban (Nemesia), Sandra Lorenzano (Susan), Alexis Varela (Jai), Jairo Hernández (Jeremy), Kevin Aguilar  (baby Sujo), Karla Garrido (Roselia); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Diana Arcega; Alpha Violet; 2024-Mexico/USA/France-in Spanish with English subtitles)

“It resolves itself in a mechanical way.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Co-directors and co-writers Astrid Rondero (“The Darkest Days of Us”) and Fernanda Valadez (“Identifying Features”) try for a lyrical pic, but it resolves itself in a mechanical way.
The cartel employed assassin single father of the 4-year-old boy Sujo (Kevin Aguilar) is Josue (David Alejandro Rocha). Sujo’s aunt Nemesia (Yadira Perez Esteban) detests her former brother-in-law. One day Josue is killed for betraying the cartel, and Nemesia talks the cartel leader (Ricardo Luna) into letting the child be raised by her outside the town in her shack.

Later on auntie sends the sheltered teenager Sujo (Juan Jesús Varela) to a private school. Her best townie friend Rosalia (Karla Garrido) treats him as family, and her teenage sons Jeremy (Jairo Hernández), a low-level cartel courier, and Jai (Alexis Varela), treat him as a brother. But Jeremy recruits the naive Sujo to be a mule for the cartel.

Sujo leaves auntie to live in Mexico City when the cartel tortures and murders Jeremy. He then works in a produce warehouse and keeps to himself while enrolling in college.

Desperately trying to lead a normal life, he befriends his literature professor (Sandra Lorenzano), who
encourages him to take the right path.

The film questions if the marginalized Sujo can possibly avert following in the footsteps of his doomed father.

The art-house film tries to tell us that the troubled young man can live a normal life if he can run away from the cartel and avoid the drug wars.

The violence takes place off-screen.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 2/14/2024  GRADE: B-