Here And There

Here And There


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

One morning before the break of dawn, after several years away working in the US, Pedro returns to his village near the city of Tlapa de Comonfort in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Over the months that follow, he will gradually reestablish his relationship with his wife Teresa and his daughters Lorena and Heidi, start a local band (the Copa Kings) with his brother on borrowed money, help Teresa through a difficult – and expensive - childbirth, and take jobs in the fields and on building sites until the work runs dry. Eventually he will return to the US in the hope of giving his family "a better life" - while denying them his presence.

Indeed, absence is key to Antonio Méndez Esparza's film which, far from directly portraying Pedro's life on the other side of the border, conjures the 'there' of its title through the yawning, yearning gaps in people's daily lives 'here' in Guerrero - where children are raised by only one parent or even none, where mothers die alone without ever seeing their sons again, where teenage boys chimerically imagine settling down at home even as they plan sojourning abroad, and where Pedro first arrives a stranger in his own home. "I don't like being poor, even less being rich, I just like being humble with my real people," sings Pedro in one touching domestic scene, setting forth the seemingly simple needs that drive him – but at the film's close that same song will be heard again, re-echoing like a painful memory in Pedro's now empty haunts, as his Mexican idyll has once more been disrupted by an American dream.

If the film's division into four headed sections ('The Return', 'Here', 'The Horizon', 'There') and its ring-compositional structure all point to the artfulness with which Esparza has organised his raw materials, nonetheless those materials – a cast of non-professionals observed at a distance over a two-year period performing versions of themselves – could not be more naturalistic. The results, which won Esparza the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes 2012, represent the sort of film that practically defines the festival experience, but that one could not ever imagine watching in any other context. No matter how crucial economic migration and its impact on ordinary lives may be as themes for our globalised times, they are here rendered dreary and dull by a slow, meandering film which tries to get viewers moving to the village's seasonal rhythms, but instead riffs far too long on a repetitive beat. Like Pedro in his musical performances, Here And There seems always to be singing the same song. It is enjoyable at first, but within an hour or so the film has begun to outstay its welcome, with nothing new to say. From there on in, the film is, much as Pedro says of his time in the US, "just work" with little reward.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2012
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After years in the US, Pedro returns home to his family in Mexico, but the lure of the north remains as strong as ever.

Director: Antonio Méndez Esparza

Writer: Antonio Méndez Esparza

Starring: Pedro Santos De los, Teresa Ramírez Aguirre, Lorena Guadalupe Pantaleón Vázquez, Heidi Laura Solano Espinoza, Néstor Tepetate Medina, Carolina Prado Ángel.

Year: 2012

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US, Spain, Mexico

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