The aimless youth film is well nigh a genre unto itself. There are stacks of these films released every year, and you know the type. There are the uplifting stories of kids hard done by who manage to somehow find hope and inspiration and rise above their circumstances and then there are the others that simply try to capture what life is like for a young person in a world that provides them with no hope. 7 Virgins falls squarely into the latter camp.
7 Virgins is the story of sixteen year old Tano - very definitely not a virgin, the title coming coming from an urban legend about a way of seeing your future - a young thug from a poor quater of urban Spain. The film opens with Tano being given a forty eight hour pass from reform school so that he may attend his brother's wedding, along with a warning to stay out of trouble. While he makes it to the wedding the warning is thoroughly ignored. He has been caged for quite a while and Tano intends to enjoy his freedom to the fullest, immediately hooking up with his young friend Richie and heading out on the town.
With it's story line of teen sex, drug use, violence and theft 7 Virgins is treading some very familiar ground and as it veers into more stock territory it begins to drag somewhat throughout the somewhat unfocused mid section. It is neither the most inventive nor most evocative film of its type but it does stand considerably above average for two primary reasons.
First, there is the presentation. Director Alberto Rodriguez has a keen eye. He shoots disarmingly beautiful film based on squalor and using a fairly verite approach gets in tight to the lives of his young protagonists. And it certainly doesn't hurt that he sets the film to a throbbing latin-jazz inspired soundtrack.
Second, there is the cast. Rodriguez has a very large cast of young actors at his disposal here and they are all exceptional, particularly the baby faced Juan Jose Ballesta who at times has a striking resemblance to a young Mark Wahlberg. Jesus Carroza is equally strong as Tano's utterly amoral and self serving best friend Richi.
7 Virgins entirely resists the urge to pretty things up or offer any easy morals. As much as you'd like to like these characters you are constantly reminded that they are capable of truly atrocious acts, things inexcusable regardless of their circumstances. And when the film begins to give you hope that they are seeing the error of their ways reality comes trampling back in to mete out violent retribution for past wrongs. While there are glimmers of hope they are ultimately crushed by the weight of poverty, Rodriguez simply presenting the life of Tano and his friends with a coda that seems to say there simply are no good options for these kids.