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The Wall of Mexico
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Zachary Cotler, Magdalena Zyzak
scr Zachary Cotler
prd Adrian Durazo, Marla Arreola, Sarahi Castro
with Jackson Rathbone, Esai Morales, Marisol Sacramento, Carmela Zumbado, Alex Meneses, Moises Arias, Xander Berkeley, Mariel Hemingway, Blake Lindsley, Lilia Fifield, Constance Todd Smith, Pedro Rodman
release US 9.Oct.20
Is it streaming?
Shot in a colourful way that's both intriguing and rather woozy, this comedy-drama is a pointed satire that centres around a clash between wealthy Latins and poor white people. Thankfully, writer-codirector Zachary Cotler keeps things loose and open-handed, allowing the audience to get the idea without preaching. The plot's pace is a bit slack, but the imagery and ideas maintain the interest and leave us thinking.
In the American Southwest, Don (Rathbone) works as a handyman at a desert ranch where Henry (Morales) lives with his spoiled wife Monica (Meneses) and hedonistic daughters Tania and Ximena (Sacramento and Zumbado), who party hard with druggie friend Javier (Arias) and immediately begin seducing Don. Resented for their wealth by the townsfolk, this family makes money selling pure well water to a niche market. So when the water level dips suddenly, Henry asks Don to keep an eye on the well, then decides to build a wall around it. And the locals fight back.
While montage sequences depicting the family's excessive lifestyle are too swirly to properly register, the film is much more effective when it hilariously ricochets between the sisters' educated but dismissive banter or explores the gruff posturing between Don and groundskeeper Mike (Berkeley). But the bigger question is why everyone is acting so strangely about this well. The explanation is predictably, and cynically, miraculous. But the townies' reaction as the wall goes up adds to the film's cheeky and provocative tone.
There's an enjoyable mix of acting styles, which highlights the divide between these camp layabouts and those who have to work hard for a living. Rathbone is a likeable presence at the centre of the plot, charismatically bridging the gap between the earthy working class and the layabout rich kids, including some spiky chemistry with Sacramento and Zimbado, who bring quirky edges to these sisters. Morales and Berkeley both add seasoned gravitas to the film, and it's great to see Hemingway in an extended cameo as the town's mayor.
Even if the absurd premise feels rather ridiculous, it's remarkable that the filmmakers' political message is never on-the-nose. Scenes are witty but played mainly with a straight face, even as a hint of melancholy seeps in. The irony is that the water level keeps dropping even after the huge wall goes up. And Don's romantic inclinations remain deeply frustrated. The narrative drags in the final act, which stretches out the inevitable conclusion. But the story carries a haunting kick.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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