Lima 2014 Review: GUEROS Takes You On A Ride Through Mexico City

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Lima 2014 Review: GUEROS Takes You On A Ride Through Mexico City
Gueros, the debut film from director Alonso Ruiz Palacios, begins on a high note: a stylish, energetic opening detailing the inevitable collision between a woman carrying her baby on a stroller and a badly timed water balloon. This little act of delinquency is what lands young Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre) in Mexico City, under the care of older brother Sombra (Tenoch Huerta), who lounges around his apartment waiting for a students' strike to finish so he can complete his thesis.

Joined by Sombra's equally slacker pal Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris), and later a radio DJ/love interest named Ana (Ilse Salas), the brothers take off in search of a reclusive, near-mythical former rock star named Epigmenio Cruz, a favorite of their late father, whose biggest claim to fame is having made Bob Dylan cry once.

What follows is a freewheeling road trip comedy set in and around a single location, the bustling, massive Mexico City. Fitting for the locale, every place the group visits (helpfully pointed out by artsy title cards) feels like an entirely different universe with its own social order and set of rules; from a college campus turned into a wartime HQ for students on strike to a posh party filled with wannabe hipsters discussing film. It's a fun snapshot of the diversity which can be found in this huge metropolis, a place it's probably very easy to get lost in.

Ruiz Palacios finds time to comment on the evident social divide in the city; the foursome are repeatedly referred to as the "gueros" of the title, a term used on anyone with blond hair and white skin, while a running gag has everyone wondering why Tomás isn't dark-skinned like his brother. This isn't really dwelt upon, however; the movie's goal is to take viewers on a ride, and in that regard, it succeeds.

Ruiz Palacios certainly goes all out in his first full-length feature; this is a stylish and trippy film which at times has a sort of Trainspotting vibe, minus the heavy drug use and thick Scottish accents. There's even some meta moments sprinkled throughout, including a knowing, sarcastic commentary on the new wave of Mexican films, of which this one is clearly a part of -- "They shoot in black and white and think they're making art movies" -- and a bizarre instance of fourth wall breaking, where the characters comment on the script they're acting out. There's a lot going on, and it's certainly ambitious, but also scattershot; the film sometimes goes off on other tangents and it's very easy to lose the plot.

The question of whether the group will ever find Epigmenio isn't really important, and there isn't a real sense of closure to this entire adventure, but that's not an issue. Like any good road trip movie, what matters is the journey rather than the destination, and Gueros takes this to heart. It's funny and confusing in equal measure, and a great directorial calling card for Alonso Ruiz Palacios.


The film debuted at the Lima Film Festival yesterday and will screen twice more on Monday, August 11. Visit the festival site for more information.

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Alonso Ruiz PalaciosGueros

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