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Abel
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Abel – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Abel (Christopher Ruíz-Esparza) is a disturbed young boy. His father leaving home to work in the US, in particular, left a big hole in his life.
Having spent some time in an institution, he’s been discharged and his mother Cecilia (Karina Gidi) takes him home, to the ramshackle house they share with his older sister Selene (Geraldine Alejandra) and younger brother Paúl (Gerardo Ruíz-Esparza).
At first it takes Abel time to settle back in, but when his mother lets him share her bed, he starts to feel increasingly comfortable back in the family fold.
Before long, he’s helping his siblings with their homework and generally acting like the man of the house. And that’s the thing; it soon becomes clear that Abel is under the delusion that he IS the man of the house. Abel thinks he is his own father – which makes the situation particularly complicated when his father Anselmo (José María Yazpik) actually comes home from the US.
Cecilia is keen to continue to humour Abel, to help him maintain his own sense of reality, but Anselmo is less enthusiastic about this approach – but when Paúl’s safety is put at risk, Cecilia knows Abel’s dream-world has to be brought to an end.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Diego Luna is an accomplished actor, seen by many as “the other one from Y Tu Mamá También” after Gael García Bernal’s runaway success in international cinema.
Luna has since followed his erstwhile co-star into English-language films, such as Milk and Criminal, but has, until now, largely remained in García Bernal’s shadows.
García Bernal was the first of the pair to branch into directing too, but Luna’s debut – this quirky, unorthodox tale of family life and mental illness – has earned him considerably more praise behind the camera.
It’s an accomplished debut, affectionately told and cleverly unfurled as what appears to be a recovery turns out to be an horrific car-crash of a mental decline.
The relationships work well on screen – both between and within generations – and the way the parents handle Abel’s problems – and their own – is creditable.
But the film feels longer than it is, taking too long to reach what becomes a race-against-time denouement of Hollywood-proportions.
It’s very much a film where the characters are stronger and more interesting than the plot that’s wrapped around them. And it’s unclear as to whether it’s playing for dark laughs or trying to be creepy. Confusing the mood is his only failing as a director.
There’s little explanation of the odd place they live, where they appear to be the only people living in a post-apocalyptic village and the local swimming pool remains open despite the fact that it’s long since fallen into decay and no-one uses it.
The characters are beautifully drawn but the overall film feels emotionally flat and sadly unconvincing.
This is certainly an interesting idea and after Abel, Luna will be able to pursue a career in directing, if he chooses to do so.

Opens nationwide 7th January 2011

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