Mexicans behaving badly, but sympathetically


on July 13, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
Maybe the country's Catholic tradition is the reason so many Mexican films seem preoccupied with finding a redemptive lining in the most sordid displays of human venality and frailty. The works of Alejandro Gonzalez are high-profile examples, but smaller films such as Carlos Reygadas' Battle in Heaven also come to mind.

In Gerardo Naranjo's second feature, Drama/Mex , this tendency produces the melodramatic whiff of a telenovela. Although this is intentional, there's no detectable irony, and the effect isn't as piercing as in Inarritu's Amores perros or 21 Grams . Described as “a stark and harrowing portrayal of moral ambiguity” in the press notes, the movie comes close to trafficking in bathos and so is more akin to Babel .

Naranjo splices together two stories that take place over the course of a scorching day and night in the once-chic, now-seedy resort town of Acapulco (someone refers to it as “Crapapulco”). The good-for-nothing ex-boyfriend of young beauty Fernanda (Diana Garcia) shows up, much to the dismay of her current squeeze, who doesn't know how to channel his anger and hurt. In the second, a suicidal middle-aged office worker (Fernando Becerril) connects with a runaway (Miriana Moro) on her first night as a beachfront prostitute.

Will Fernanda take off with her bad-boy ex? Does the tramp with a heart of gold save the distraught man, the one person mature enough to appreciate life's painful absurdity? Hope and reconciliation are never far off according to the movie's worldview.

The storytelling is subtlety fractured chronologically, but to what end, it's not clear. The technique is accomplished, however, and actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal lend their cool imprimatur as executive producers.

Writer/director Naranjo is a talent worth keeping an eye on—provided he can find his own idiom and less predictable subject matter. And it's impossible to take your eyes off the ravishing Garcia in her debut. She may be what Drama/Mex is most remembered for.
Distributor: IFC First Take
Cast: Fernando Becerril, Miriana Moro, Emilio Valdes, Diana Garcia and Juan Pablo Castaneda
Director/Screenwriter: Gerardo Naranjo
Producers: Gabriel Garcia, Santiago Paredes and Miriana Moro
Genre: Drama; Spanish-language, subtitled
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: July 11, 2007 ltd
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