Dir/scr: Luis Alberto Lamata. Venezuela, 2008. 82 mins.
A powerhouse performance from Lourdes Valera as a bereaved mother might carry this dramatic two-hander through to a respectable festival and even commercial career, despite a manipulative and often far-fetched script and unusually poor-quality images, possibly due to the transfer from original video to 35mm.
Given the subject matter of parental pain and anguish transcending class and justice, combined with the popular Latin American theme of violent crime pushing even the most law-abiding citizens to the edge of vigilante action, favourable TV and home-video response on its home continent can also be expected for this Venezuelan feature.
Odulio (Soto), the adolescent punk son of Antonieta Sanchez (Valera) lies dying in a Caracas hospital, shot in an apparent settling of accounts between gangs. As his mother anxiously paces up and down the empty corridors, the perfectly-groomed Bruno Robles (Cruz), approaches her, introduces himself as the assistant district attorney,y and attempts to question her. Suspicious as all slum dwellers are of anything to do with the law, she launches into an offensive against him and everything he represents. Her son was a good boy, she insists, and the rest of the film deals with the relationship between these two characters.
What Antonieta does not know is that Robles’ own 23-year-old daughter, Elisa (Alvarado), is also lying in the same hospital, gravely wounded because of an incident involving her son. United by the same pain and anger which they express in dramatically different ways, Antonieta and Bruno embark on a duel of words while flashbacks fill the audience in on events (unknown to Antonieta) which have preceded their encounter.
An investigative camera, whose presence or purpose is never made quite clear, ties the present with the past: it’s all introduced in a somewhat haphazard order that is initially confusing but ultimately seems to make sense. The backbone to the film is the ongoing dialogue between Antonieta and Robles, and the contrast between them, one anguished and unrestrained, the other composed and careful. The arguments don’t always convince and putting the audience in the position of knowing more than one of the characters isn’t the fairest way to deal with a two-hander, but Valera’s forthright performance is enough to carry the viewer through such doubts - at least, for the film’s running time. Cruz’s restrained, enigmatic performance is the perfect sounding board for her explosions of temper.
More difficult to forgive are the over-saturated colours which prevent any fair appreciation of either cinematography or art work. If transfer from video to film is indeed to be blamed, maybe it’s time for a trip back to the labs.
Production companies/international sales
Jerico LL Films
Luisa De La Ville