With sensitivity and humour, Diego Luna demonstrates a genuine flair for tender, wryly observed family drama with Abel, giving him a second career behind the camera if his matinee idol looks ever fade.
Keeping the action largely confined to a spacious, though crumbling house and the surrounding wasteland, Luna and co-writer Augusto Mendoza avoid cheap laughs and camp melodrama, instead bringing a magical realism to Abel’s plight.
They also avoid revealing why Abel has not spoken for two years or why he becomes his missing dad when allowed home for a week of see-what-happens therapy.
As the titular pre-teen, Ruiz-Esparza’s performance mixes dramatic weight with deft comic timing, interrogating his older sister’s bemused boyfriend about his intentions or, in a superbly handled scene, believing he has fulfilled his husbandly duties with his mum.
Luna makes room for a subplot involving Abel’s dad’s real reason behind his leaving to seek work in the US, and allows himself a traditional kids-in-peril swimming pool ending that manages to stay on the right side of soap.
But, the movie is better in the smaller domestic scenes, anchored by a standout performance by Gidi as Abel’s loving mum.
With a familiar face that belies the fact you’ve probably not seen her in anything, Gidi is the film’s emotional anchor and on the basis of this both she and Ruiz-Esparza deserve break through success.
Mexican cinema adds another gem to its treasure chest.
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