El Crimen Del Padre Amaro

El Crimen Del Padre Amaro

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Until the international scandal concerning paedophile priests, the Catholic church appeared to take a pragmatic and humanist view of those who fell from grace. The celibacy rule, in particular, was always going to cause problems and, when broken, would be dealt with discreetly, away from the glare of public condemnation.

In Mexico, it's not just sex, but politics and power. Father Amaro's crime is that he's young, idealistic and handsome. It would be impossible for him to ignore the advances of love-struck ladies, especially in the small town of Los Reyes, where Father Benito (Sancho Gracia) has been caring for the congregation as long as anyone can remember, and sharing his bed with a widow who cooks.

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Benito has connections with the local drug baron, who finances the construction of a hospital, while one of the other priests, who stays in the mountains, protects the guerrillas who work for the traffickers. Simplistic moral answers to the question of Christianity are like flags of convenience. In the field, it is the method, not the message, that matters.

Amaro (Gael Garcia Bernal) has the ear of the bishop and is destined for greater things. Certainly, he is ambitious and, underneath a gentle exterior, can be ruthless in pursuit of his goals. When he falls in love with the pious and sensual teenager Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancon), his soul needs little searching, as he embarks upon a forbidden passion that will result in tragic consequences.

The film may appear naked in its narrative form, as if priestly vows and the heart's desire are at war, leading to a young man's downfall and an innocent girl's despair, but it goes deeper than that, to fundamental choices that include the complexity of the Catholic doctrine, the strict laws of the Church, the benefit of the priesthood to peasant communities, the need to live in a world that will forever be stained by blood and why theological theory withers before the heat of a young girl's skin.

"What about our love?" Amelia whispers in the confessional.

Amaro hesitates, before bending close to the grill that separates them.

"It is a gift," he says, and she believes him.

Time stands still. The perfection of what they have can never last, but for that moment, before reality breaks like a torrent over them, hope is stronger than God.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2003
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Gael Garcia Bernal is a priest in Mexico who falls in love with a beautiful teenager.
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Read more El Crimen Del Padre Amaro reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***1/2

Director: Carlos Carrera

Writer: Vicente Lenero, based on the novel by Jose Maria Eca de Queiroz

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Sancho Gracia, Ana Claudia Talancon, Angelica Aragon, Luisa Huertas, Damian Alcazar

Year: 2002

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico/Spain/Argentina/France

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