The Cinema Hold Up

The Cinema Hold Up

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Events in Iria Gómez Conchiero's impressive debut may be driven by the cinema hold-up of the title but she is chiefly concerned with using the build up to the heist as a means of exploring teenage disenfranchisement through character drama. Although set in the deprived barios of Mexico, it's a subject that has a surprising resonance with the recent rioting in England, which might make it a more attractive prospect for a potential UK distributor.

By placing the robbery at the heart of the film, Conchiero gives us time to get to know the teenagers who are planning to commit it and to get a realistic taste of their lives in the low-rent district of Mexico City, where friends are more reliable than family. Head of the gang is Negus (Gabino Rodriguez), who kicks about the hinterlands alongside his pals Sapo (Juan Pablo de Santiago), Chale (Angel Sosa) and his girlfriend Chata (Paulina Avalos). With work non-existent, they spend their days sitting around talking of a way out, in between creating grafitti pictures round the neighbourhood.

Copy picture

Concheiro's pacing - although perhaps a little too slow in places - allows us to become steeped in their boredom, lack of cash and their disenfranchisement to the point where we can understand how they come to view a robbery as a good idea. We also come to find them a likeable bunch, who are more sinned against than sinning. This slow build also allows the tension of the planning to build to the point where the heist itself comes like an adrenaline hit.

What is particularly interesting about Conchiero's debut, however, is the way she constantly reminds us of the child-like aspects of being a teenager. Negus and Chata's relationship, for example, has the sort of chaste nervousness that often comes with young love but is largely unexplored by mainstream films. Even though the characters may come to wield guns, they are more like lost boys and girls than a malevolent horde set on evil. The implication is that their lives could change if only they received more attention from the adults who surround them - the tragedy being that there is almost nothing they can do to alter their own trajectory of hopelessness alone.

Expertly directing both professional and non-professional actors, Conchiero offers a realistic portrait of life for many and proves adept at creating both realistic characters and giving them something to say. Although the film is a little over- indulgent in terms of runtime, she announces herself as a director to watch.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2011
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Four childhood pals decide to rob a cinema.
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