Tear This Heart Out

Tear This Heart Out

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Mexico's nomination for the 2009 foreign language Oscar is a sumptously shot melodrama of domestic politics set against a backdrop of the country in the post-revolution years of the Thirties and Forties.

It is 1932 when Catalina Guzmán (Ana Claudia Talancón) first meets General Andrés Ascencio (Daniel Giménez Cacho). He is fresh from the revolution with a suitably big Zapata-style moustache and suitably big political plans. She is just 15, but Catalina and her family quickly fall for the charming assuredness of Andrés despite suggestions from those around them that he has a murky past. Catalina is, we are to believe, so naive she hasn't even realised where her clitoris is yet and although this is certainly stretching belief, it's clear that when Andrés turns up on her doorstep and whisks her to the registery office, she isn't really aware what she is letting herself in for.

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The film then tracks their marriage over the next 10 or so years as Andrés tries to climb the greasy pole of success, breaking a few heads and bedding a few other women along the way, while Catalina herself indulges in some daliances of her own, most notably with left-wing orchestra conducter Vives (Jose Maria de Tavira). There are hints of rebellion - especially when several children from Andrés' previous relationships turn up on her doorstep but, by and large, Catalina seems prepared to play wife, but whether this is due to pressure from Andrés or her own love of the lifestyle remains moot.

While everything looks fabulous and the narrative - based on the novel by Angeles Mastretta - is engaging to a point, there's a sense that we're only getting part of the story. There are constant suggestions that Andrés is a dangerous man to get on the wrong side of but despite a solid performance from Cacho, he never feels like much of a threat. The macro-politics of the situation is also very much a bit-part player, although cinemagoers in the film's homeland may be more readily able to fill in the blanks than a foreign audience. Talancón is very watchable in the role of Catalina but the script doesn't stretch her particularly. In fact, that's the biggest problem with the film as a whole, it's artfully shot, with nicely pitched, believable performances but everything feels a little too comfy and familiar, as we walk a cinematic route as predictable as tears before bedtime.

Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2011
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Passionate melodrama set against the backdrop of post-Revolution Mexco.
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Festivals:

Viva 2011

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