Written & Directed by: #MercedElizondo
Sergio, a former mechanic, is in the middle of a crippling battle with arthritis. When the opportunity to fix an old family-friend's truck arises, Sergio begins a downward spiral towards denial and self-destructive behaviour in an attempt to regain his identity as a working man with purpose. As a result, his struggling relationship with his son is put to the ultimate test.
Manos De Oro is a character-focused story, told from the perspective of Sergio (Julio César Cedillo). From the opening shot — a close zoom in on his hands — to the beautiful attention to detail throughout, this felt like I was watching an episode of Breaking Bad. Elizondo’s eye is as sharp as Vince Gilligan’s, with a keen exploration of a subject. In around thirty minutes, Sergio goes through a wonderfully textured arc. We see his struggle, his motivation to push through even with his arthritis.
The acting from the small cast is phenomenal. They feel like full characters, not just hollow shells. It seems like there’s some history here, and we’ve been thrown into their lives for a short moment. Julio César Cedillo and Jero Medina are a fantastic duo; The writing is superb and their performances support it. There’s a huge feeling of realism embedded in the stitches of this story, and what a well-executed story it is.
Capturing the drama is cinematographer Mark Ragunton, who shoots with crisp black and white, only adding to that rustic and beaten feel. I refer to Breaking Bad once again for the similarities in visual storytelling. Where Gilligan’s TV series would let scenes play out in their own time, with focused imagery singling out performances, Ragunton does the very same and with great results. He pays attention to the hands of Sergio, showing us just a few of the struggles he runs into during his day. The simple things count, and I’m a sucker for them. Supporting the visual is a subtle, poignant score by Matthew C. Thomas. It doesn’t come in often during the film’s runtime but when it does, it’s splendid. Especially during the final closing minutes, by which point I was smiling.
Manos De Oro is brilliant all-round. If you like character-driven storytelling with stunning visuals and small but affective casts, then this is an absolute must watch. There’s an eye for detail and a wonderful beating heart at its core, so please, don’t miss out on this one.