Dir: Fernando Sarinana. Mexico. 2002. 110mins.
Having proved his box-office mettle in his native Mexico, producer-turned director Fernando Sarinana has been building an international profile with such offerings as Hasta Morir (Til Death, 1994), Todo El Poder (Give Me Power, 1999) and his pitch-black fresco of Mexico City grotesques, Ciudades Oscuras (Dark Cities, 2002). But, while his new film, Love Hurts, played in competition in Mar del Plata, it has no real business on the festival or arthouse circuit, apart from limited crossover potential in specialist film weeks.
This teen romance is a vague remake of Romeo & Juliet and, indeed, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, with nothing very weighty on its mind, in spite of Sarinana's high-minded claims to expose racist prejudice in modern-day Mexico. But it should strike a more appreciative chord with young Hispanic urban audiences, especially, though not exclusively, women (niche distributors in the US might take note). They will respond to the attractive cast, turbo-charged visuals and funky music track led by the title number from Natalia Lafourcade. Released in Mexico in November 2002, Love Hurts has made $7.4m there from 2.3m admissions.
Scripted by Sarinana's wife and regular collaborator Carolina Rivera, the story tells of the star-crossed love between Renata (Martha Higareda), the pampered elder daughter of a wealthy family and Ulises (Luis Fernando Pena), a Native Mexican youth living well on the wrong side of the tracks. Meeting in a shopping mall, they do not take long to exchange a kiss leading to more secret trysts and vows of eternal devotion, to the resentment of their mutual friends and the stereotypical wrath of Renate's snobbish parents. When her family tries to end the romance by packing the girl off to Canada, the pair plots to elope, with tragic results.
This paper-thin yarn is decked out with all kind of formal tricks: numerous montage-to-music sequences, pop-culture references (Ulises is a talented comic-strip and graffiti artist) and a firework display of split screen, time-lapse photography, heavy filters, black-and-white and 8mm sequences and an enormous fondness for the zoom shot.
In that respect Love Hurts seems to offer the same bravura and excitement as the best of the new Latino wave. But anyone expecting another Amores Perros or City Of God will be disappointed: this carries neither those films' emotional punch nor their intellectual substance and its analysis of social inequality could be written on a matchbox. Still, these tasty two hours of eye candy should more than satisfy viewers in search of undemanding genre entertainment.
The performers do not get much of a chance to show their acting paces. Pena, who played the slimy stepbrother in Perfume Of Violets, broods soulfully as Ulises, while newcomer Higareda is required mainly to look pretty and flash her breasts on the slightest pretext. Among the supporting cast, most impact is made by Alfonso Herrera as the story's bleached-blond Tybalt character, and by Ximena Sarinana, the director's daughter, as Renate's hard-drinking kid sister.
Prod cos: Altavista Films Mexico, Videocine, with El Charro Films
Mex dist: Videocine
Int'l sales: Altavista Films
Exec prods: Federico Gonzalez Compean, Eckehardt von Damm
Prods: Fernando Sarinana, Francisco Gonzalez Compean
Scr: Carolina Rivera
Cinematography: Salvador Cartas
Prod des: Mirko von Berner
Ed: Roberto Bolado
Music: Enrique Quezadas
Main cast: Luis Fernando Pena, Martha Higareda, Ximena Sarinana, Armando Hernadez, Alfonso Herrera