Dir: Nicolas Pereda. Mexico. 2009. 86 mins


With this arresting third feature, Nicolas Pereda neatly charts the disintegration of the contemporary Mexican family with deceptively simple dramatic devices. He structures the film as a loose road journey in a beat-up van by two young amateur movers from a poor neighborhood as they traverse Mexico City and enter into the lives of troubled moms and sons, and husbands and wives of all classes.

Creative marketeers could capitalise on the film’s accessible, if unhurried, compact structure and odd but fascinating characters to merit release in specialised cinemas.

Its competition slot (Mexican feature films) at the Guadalajara International Film Festival follows its world premiere in San Sebastian (in the same version) and other festival berths are assured.

International industry buyers and distributors attending Guadalajara’s market are seeing an unfinished version of Pereda’s next feature, Summer of Goliath, and its impact could help determine the distribution future of Perpetuum Mobile. The latter’s modest scale - Pereda spent only $15,000 and hired professional actor friends for almost no pay - limits release in Spanish-language territories to arthouse venues.

Foreign-language distribution will be much more challenging, but creative marketeers could capitalise on the film’s accessible, if unhurried, compact structure and odd but fascinating characters to merit release in specialised cinemas, even moreso in countries like the US with sizable Mexican immigrant populations. 

One of the movers, Gabino (Gabino Rodriguez), is the layabout son of a nagging, overweight single mother, Teresa (Teresa Sanchez, in a strong performance). Bookending the family narrative is the presence of Teresa’s neglected old mom. In the opening sequence, alone in her apartment, she walks slowly with the aid of a zimmer frame and sings, “I don’t have a single friend to console me.” At film’s end she is less than zero, nothing but an inconvenient corpse that her daughter and grandson bury illegally in the countryside.

The contrast between Teresa and Gabino’s cramped apartment and the exteriors that Gabino and his business partner travel through help to keep the story moving. When the two men drive around in the van, they feel free, leafy trees reflecting on the windshield, ambient sound adding credibility to the experience. They visit clients who are leaving their residences due to various sorts of family problems.

A sense of melancholic solitude runs through the film. By the time Gabino and Teresa visit her mother - they want something from her, of course, in this case to store some household items - she has been dead for two weeks. Their impersonal handling of her corpse, filmed in long shot in a strikingly long take, underscores the basic emptiness that is, according to Pereda in this feature anyway, the human condition.

Production company: En Chinga Films

International sales: Ondamax Films. www.ondamaxfilms.com

Producers: Nicolas Pereda, Catalina Pereda

Screenplay: Nicolas Pereda

Cinematography: Alejandro Coronado

Editor: Nicolas Pereda

Production design: Nicolas Pereda

Main cast: Gabino Rodriguez, Teresa Sanchez, Francisco Barreiro