A sensitive narrative debut for actor turned director Diego Luna

Abel

on January 07, 2011 by Richard Mowe
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For his narrative directorial debut actor, actor Diego Luna (Y tu mamá también) takes an acerbic look at a child struggling in an adult's world after he's suddenly required to take charge of his dysfunctional family. With a cast of virtual unknowns this may be a tough sell, but Mexican cinema is on a roll with the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Luna deserves to benefit from the momentum. It augurs well for Luna's leap to the other side of the camera and should find a select but appreciative audience.

When Abel (an amazing debut performance from Christopher Ruíz-Esparza) returns from a children's hospital where he has been committed for behavioral problems, he steps in to his absent father's shoes as head of the household. The rest of the family including his sister Selene, his younger brother (Ruíz-Esparza's real-life sibling Gerardo) and his mother Cecilia (Karina Gidi) play along with the notion and accept his position, giving rise to all manner of humorous situations. When his sister, for instance, brings her boyfriend home, she's met by a distinctly disapproving 9 year old.

Luna deals delicately with the darker reaches of the situation; the mother figure is hugely important in Mexican culture and Abel has inappropriate feelings for his mother, which he demonstrates in adolescent ways as he pretends to play the role of the father. There are also issues of mental illness, incest and child abandonment, which in less sensitive hands could have seemed sensational or overbearing. Luna manages to delicately balance comedy and tragedy, and in so doing avoids any mawkish awkwardness.

Co-written by Luna and Augusto Mendoza, the film conceives of a fantasy world for this child who copes with his mental problems by creating a new identity for himself. When his father returns to the family, Abel takes off with his younger brother into the dangers of the world outside.

Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Christopher Ruíz-Esparza, Gerardo Ruíz-Esparza, José Maria Yazpik, Karina Gidi and Geraldine Alejandra
Director: Diego Luna
Screenwriters: Augusto Mendoza and Diego Luna
Producers: Pablo Cruz and Diego Luna
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 83 min.
Release date: March 4 ltd.

 

Tags: 
Pablo Cruz, Augusto Mendoza, Diego Luna, Geraldine Alejandra, Karina Gidi, José Maria Yazpik, Gerardo Ruíz-Esparza, Christopher Ruíz-Esparza
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