Abuelo short film review

★★★★★

Directed by: Marco A.Diaz

Written by: #MarcoADiaz

Starring: #DavidVenz, #AnissaMattes, #XavierCharcas

Film review by: William Hemingway



Abuelo film poster

Abuelo (Venz) is having a hard time adjusting to his new life in America. His ties to the past and his old life in Mexico are strong, and he now spends most of his days looking at old photos, reminiscing. He hasn't taken the time to learn any English and even gets annoyed when his grandchildren speak it in the house instead of Spanish. Poor old Abuelo just can't seem to cope with life in the new world or fall in line with the new generation.

Things begin to come to a head one day when Abuelo is home alone with the children while their mother is out at work. Roberto (Charcas) wants to watch some television and he decides to switch it on, standing right in front of it even though Abuelo was already listening to the radio at the time. An argument ensues, where Abuelo feels he is being disrespected, and Alicia (Mattes) has to play the role of the household matriarch, trying to keep the peace, but also telling a few home truths, while her mother is not there.

Things are shared that Abuelo finds hard to deal with and he finds that his answer to everything – that life was better in Mexico, where they should all be, living off the land like his own father and grandfather before him – is only falling on deaf ears. So, Abuelo makes a decision and retreats into his own corner to fend for himself, but even that doesn't work. Is there no peace for an old man who just wants a little respect in this damnable new world?

Writer/director Marco A. Diaz has done an excellent job of creating a modern day fable which explores the themes of displacement, loss, immigration, and the generation gap. He manages this superbly by bringing us right into the world of Abuelo and his family. The setting is close and intimate, allowing us to feel that the characters really are living cheek by jowl, where tension and friction can be stirred up easily. Wherever the camera moves we feel that we might be getting in the way; stepping on someone's toes; as we bear witness to the breakdown of family ties when they clash with personal values.

The colours are muted and dark, much like Abuelo's mind, as though we can see how distant the life and vibrancy of Mexico are to him. Then as the story moves into a wider context we see that the outside world can be just as dark and unremitting as a life within four walls. The cast all do a great job of inhabiting their characters, especially Anissa Mattes as Alicia, who delivers her scathing lines with deep feeling mixed alongside a twinge of desperation. It is evident from her tone and the look on her face that a lot of responsibility rests on Alicia's young shoulders and Mattes carries the film well through her main thread of the narrative.

As a modern day fable, Abuelo's message/moral seems to be something akin to 'Be careful what you wish for', especially as it reaches towards the final scene. There is so much going on in the playing out of the story that it is incredible that Diaz has managed to say so much in just five short minutes. Thoughts of identity and politics and social injustice are unavoidable in the closing moments of the film, perhaps shocking us into an understanding of just how close to the line (whichever metaphysical, socio-political or geographical line you care to insert) many people in society are living.

Was Abuelo's crime just that he was too old? Too afraid of change? Too unable to adjust to a new environment? Or was the real crime that nobody took any notice of him in the first place? Either way it's almost impossible not to notice the passion and skill, as well as the urgency, with which Abuelo's story is told.


#WilliamHemingway