Chicuarotes [TIFF19 Review]

Films that you didn’t love but also didn’t hate are the most difficult to write about. Not because it’s hard to emulate what you mean but because feelings about them are mixed and too often don’t reflect everything that you feel. That’s why writing this is hard because I wanted to love Chicuarotes and sometimes I did. Sometimes I saw the brilliance behind Gael Garcia Bernal’s film. But then that little flicker of hope that was in me slowly dissipated only to be replaced mostly by annoyance. Chicuarotes is the in-between for me, the film that I liked and hated at the same time, a film that walking away I just thought that I had seen it, didn’t feel anything extraordinary whether positive or negative that would have been. It was simply a film that I had a witness.

The thing that made me dislike this film was mostly in the script because the acting and directing was amazing. Bernal’s as a flair to transport you in the world he creates, the way the camera exposes the hard truths of Mexico feel realistic and you are transported there. The acting is superb and they do everything they can with what they have gotten but even that can’t save the film. The characters are not one to like or even love. And that usually wouldn’t be a problem but when your film centres around two teenagers who go on to do an unthinkable act in order to escape their truth, I should be able to feel something for them and yet, I never could.

My main problem stands with the characters’ actions, mostly the protagonist. Unlikable characters aren’t uncommon, hell, the unlikable male character is the norm nowadays when it comes to film and television. But the thing is that those unlikeable characters often had something that helped them redeem themselves. And while you can see that these two kids are the product of their environment they can’t seem to escape, I never felt like I could sympathize with them. And maybe that’s just me but there were moments that I could see it but mostly I was met with an unlikable protagonist who never once felt like he regretted any of his actions.

Being a victim of their environment is at the centre of the film. They try to escape it but they can’t. Everyone they meet is against them. A father, a friend, strangers, no one is trying to get them to escape their lives. Even the mother, who by the end finally does the right thing, does it too late. It’s a cycle and you can see it. One of the characters in the film even justifies his vicious actions by saying that this will show them the way. It’s at that moment that the film’s message is clearer than anything before. And that would have been okay with me, I would have been able to accept the protagonist but his action at the end of the film where he finds himself in a situation where he should make the right decision is overshadowed by the fact that he doesn’t help until someone else starts, he leaves behind the one person that has been at his side since the beginning and never seem to regret anything. And for me, I just never could get behind him and his actions because of that lack of remorse on his part.

Chicuarotes isn’t bad but it also isn’t good. It’s a good film about a message that needs to be seen, a film that tries to expose the hard truths of today’s youth but the problem centres around its main character and the fact that except for a few glances it’s impossible to connect to him because he just seems like a jerk who never feels one ounce of remorse for anything that he has done.

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