CUERNAVACA Film Review: A moving coming of age story

Cuernavaca is a moving film about growing up, hardship and loss

Cuernavaca, written and directed by Alejandro Andrade Paese, is a coming of age tale about a boy named Andy (Emilio Puente). After his mother Carmen (Mariana Gajá) is victim to a harrowing and violent experience, he must travel to his father’s hometown to stay with his estranged family. Andy also has the misfortune of witnessing the crime and must cope with all of this without his main support system, his mother.

CUERNAVACA
(L to R)Diego Álvarez García and Emilio Puente Photos courtesy of CUERNAVACA film

Andy moves in with his wealthy and stern grandmother (Carmen Maura) and his loving aunt (Dulce Domínguez) who has an intellectual disability. He is told his father Andres (Moises Arizmendi) will arrive eventually, and he spends most of his time waiting for that moment.  Andy’s search for comfort in a foreign place leads him to meet Charley (Diego Álvarez García), a teenager who works for Andy’s grandmother’s orchard. While Charley can offer Andy some love, affection and comfort, he also offers him an escape from his current life but ensconcing him in a dangerous lifestyle and ultimately the violence that becomes the story’s climax

In this writer’s opinion Cuernavaca has several strengths.  Puente’s Andy, who desperately waits for his father’s return and tries everything in his power to get him back, is portrayed with an emotional honesty that is the highlight of the film. We watch as Andy attempts to find peace and comfort in his harsh surroundings. His formidable grandmother, dealing with repressed problems of her own, can’t offer the emotional support he needs. His aunt comforts him as much as she can, but it isn’t enough to fill the void left by his absent parents. The narrative is interspersed with dreamlike sequences featuring his mother and other loved ones. These shots are also particularly moving, and visually striking, and highlighted Andy’s emotional journey.

The end of the film does not wrap Andy’s story up neatly in a bow. It left this writer feeling slightly unsatisfied as we are quite invested in the emotional well-being of this boy.  Our urge is to just wish everything could be all right and perfect for him.  This feeling is overwhelming. However, this is not how real life goes, and the ambiguity of the film’s conclusion is effective at driving that home.  We still don’t know exactly what will happen to him, but after everything that has happened, we see an Andy who seems more equipped to deal with whatever comes next.

CUERNAVACA
Moisés Arizmendi and Emilio Puente Photos courtesy of CUERNAVACA film

For screening information visit the Cuernavaca facebook page

Screenplay 
Alejandro Andrade Pease

Editing 
Francisco X. Rivera, Alejandro Andrade, Ana García

Photography 
Fernando Reyes Allendes

Music
Pablo Malaurie, Andrés Sánchez

Sound
Enrique Fernández Tanco

Cast
Carmen Maura, Emilio Puente,
Moisés Arizmendi, Mariana Gajá,
Diego Álvarez García, Dulce Domínguez,
Aranza Beltrán

Producers
Armando Andrade,
Alejandro Andrade Pease

Production 
Pisito Trece Producciones (ERPIP), Cinema Máquina, Home Films, EFD

Photo: Brian McConkey

About the Author

Taryn Smith graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago's BFA Performance program in 2011. After graduating, she co-founded Realize Theatre Group and served as Executive Director for the company.  She has filled numerous roles while with RTG both on and off stage including making her playwriting debut with her play America, Inc . She has worked as a stage manage, designer, director, and actor. Outside of the theatre world, Taryn is a licensed massage therapist.

Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Taryn Smith.

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