Abel

cast: Christopher Ruíz-Esparza, Karina Gidi, and José María Yazpik

director: Diego Luna

87 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Network DVD Region 2

RATING: 5/10
review by Tony Hill

Abel

This is an intriguing but somewhat enigmatic Mexican offering from the director of acclaimed Y Tu Mamá También (2001). If this movie were a book it would be a novella of about 135 pages and not a full-blown novel; so if you are looking for an action-packed page-turner, then this film will not be for you. What it does do, though, is to give an insight into the lives of a semi-rural Mexican family struggling to make ends meet with an absent breadwinner father – and how this existence affects our hero, nine-year-old Abel (Christopher Ruíz-Esparza).

We first meet Abel when he is being collected from hospital where he has been treated for some form of mental breakdown rendering him completely silent. He goes home, where his mother Cecilia (Karina Gidi) tries, without much success, to get him to integrate into family life with his older sister Selene (Geraldine Alejandra) and younger brother Paúl (Gerardo Ruíz-Esparza, real-life brother of Christopher), but Abel would rather watch TV – day and night. However, one day he discovers a batch of family photos which include the missing father who is purportedly away in the USA earning his fortune.

From that moment on Abel is transformed. He takes on the role of the father, in every way. More than that – he believes he is the father. He bosses the family (‘son’ and daughter) about and takes to sharing his mother’s bed – to him his wife’s bed. He is a completely new character – the complete opposite of the silent, moody Abel newly arrived from hospital.

However, this relatively happy but somewhat bizarre arrangement is disrupted by the return of the missing father Anselmo (José María Yazpik). The movie then explores how Abel and the family deal with this situation. We wish Abel well but are apprehensive about his future. Although only a slight piece, Abel the film holds the attention and the acting of the whole family convinces you that the strange situation is truly real rather than an allegorical rendering of the quite common ‘broken fatherless family’ story we have seen many times before. The Mexican setting adds a further dimension of interest to the whole movie.

I don’t think I could tell you to rush out at the first opportunity to see this film but, if you do watch it, you will be drawn step-by-step into the strange world of Abel and the problems of his and Mexican domestic life. As an afterthought, perhaps this movie should have been called Y Tu Papá También.