Amidst the glamour of Chicago and the sheerness of The Hours, I finally found a 2002 film worth the coveted A+ grade. With terrific acting and a powerful, controversial story, El Crimen del Padre Amaro, the movie that took Mexico by storm, is one of the best films of the year.
Gael Garcia Bernal, the star of the other Mexican crossover film Y Tu Mama Tambien, takes the lead as Father Amaro, a young and handsome priest that has just been ordained. He travels to Los Reyes to start his life under the guidance of Father Benito, but finds true solace in Amelia, a beautiful 16-year old girl that works with the church. Amidst scandals in the church, Father Amaro starts one himself, engaging in a lustrous affair with the girl. However, nothing like this could end up happily...
Fantastic is one word that could describe the movie. Stunning is another. Thought-provoking wraps it up. El Crimen del Padre Amaro is easily one of the best movies of the year, and for good reason; it has every element of an Oscar-worthy film, which probably explains why it was nominated for Best Foreign Film (and consequently why I decided to check it out). The acting is terrific, the story is well-conceived, and by the end, you'll be breathless.
Bernal, who was great in Y Tu Mama Tambien, is just as good, if not better, here. Y Tu Mama Tambien was a good and intriguing movie, but the overall storyline was more about self-discovery than any deep issue (at least that's how I saw it). Bernal really gets to shine in Padre Amaro as he is presented with every crisis a priest could face. For such a young man he shows exceptional range.
Ana Claudia Talancon does an exceptional job as Amelia, the girl who becomes the center of Father Amaro's problems. She is as talented as she is beautiful; she is incredibly believable as the young and "almost" innocent church-going girl that ends up becoming the victim of Father Amaro's sins. Her eyes alone command every scene she is in; they show much depth.
The acting and script go hand in hand to make El Crimen del Padre Amaro one of the best films of the year. The movie is subtle at times, but after all is said and done, it leaves a chilling and hair-tingling presence behind. The ending is short and powerful, and makes the movie what it is.
El Crimen del Padre Amaro raises many interesting questions about the ethics and rules of the Catholic Church, while on its own also delivering a powerful yet down-to-earth tale of youth, love and sin.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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