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#TIFF19 Review: Chicuarotes (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 16, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The second film directed by celebrated Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, following his 2007 directorial debut Déficit, Chicuarotes follows teenaged friends Cagalera (Benny Emmanuel) and Moloteco (Gabriel Carbajal), who live in the impoverished neighbourhood of San Gregorio Atlapulco in Mexico City. The film opens with them on a bus, their faces painted like clowns, performing a comedy routine in hopes of making some cash.

When nobody gives them money for their act, they rob the passengers at gunpoint, with a pistol that Cagalera has stolen from his mother’s (Dolores Heredia) abusive, alcoholic boyfriend (Enoc Leano), who makes life hell for him at home. Desperate to make enough money for food, and to hopefully escape their town, Cagalera and Moloteco turn from petty to more serious crimes, sending them down a dangerous path that has increasingly dire consequences

The film has some pacing challenges, and the tone is a bit inconsistent at times. There are some sharp tonal shifts between dark comedy and serious drama, and Chicuarotes isn’t always pleasant to watch, including some shocking moments of violence. But Bernal is striving for authenticity in his portrait of poverty causing people to behave desperately, and he has crafted a gritty and very well acted parable of life in modern Mexico City, with the overall message being that crime doesn’t pay. It’s carried by strong performances from Emmanuel and Carbajal, the former a professional actor and the latter making an impressibe debut.

Gabriel Carbajal and Benny Emmanuel in Chicuarotes

Public Screenings:

Tuesday, September 10th – 9:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Wednesday, September 13th  6:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Friday, September 13th – 5:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

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