Reviewed by: James Benefield

Diego Luna tries to escape his image as the adorable younger brother of the boy next door, by moving behind the camera in Abel.

A sadder story than its comedy initially suggests, we focus on young Abel – a boy who think he's his father. Abel is growing up in an increasingly poverty-stricken household. After being abandoned by her husband two years previously, Abel's mother Cecilia (Karina Gidi) is slowly selling off the house's belongings in order to fund her family's already low-key lifestyle. Things take a turn for the worse when Abel starts acting as he perceives his father would – he sits in front of the TV, ordering his mother about and disapproving of his sister's boyfriend.

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So, while initially very funny – there are a number of 'hilarious consequences' of Abel as the man of the house – things become darker and more upsetting very quickly, especially when Abel's womanising, selfish father arrives back from working in the USA. Bringing no money with him, but plenty of attitude, he initially wants to snap Abel out of his trance. However, after being informed that this would be a psychological disaster, he decides to play along – but with his fiery temper, how long is it going to last?

Although Christopher Ruíz-Esparza is charming as the lead, the real star of the movie is Karina Gidi's matriarch. Gidi brings a bone-dry earthiness to her character despite making the kind of choices which would usually see an audience want to jump through the screen and shake her, crying "What's wrong with you, woman?". You can almost forgive her for being so passive. Almost.

Unfortunately, you can't forgive some of the broad brush strokes elsewhere. The father is almost unbelievably unpleasant and we're given no real reason as to why Cecilia ever married him. It's modern day Mexico, she's a headstrong woman, what gives? Also, after a while, the joke of the son acting like his father is, frankly, rather irritating. There's some late in the day pathos which does pull at the heart strings, but the film falls flat once more with a half-baked open ended conclusion.

While Diego Luna piles on the charm, it's all for very little. Plot contrivances and poor character development will eventually undermine even the most patient of audience's good will.

Reviewed on: 27 Oct 2010
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A peculiar young boy, blurring reality and fantasy, assumes the responsibilities of a family man in his father's absence.
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Director: Diego Luna

Writer: Diego Luna and Augusto Mendoza

Starring: Christopher Ruíz-Esparza, Karina Gidi, Gerardo Ruíz-Esparza, José María Yazpik

Year: 2010

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico

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