Wednesday, January 12, 2011

María Victoria Menis - El cielito AKA Little Sky (2004)

A young man is seen riding a train through the Argentine's interior. It's clear he has no money to pay for the fare, as we watch him taking his switch blade out when the conductor comes near him. But no, this young man is no criminal; the next thing we see him at the rear door jumping out.

Fate seems to play a big part in Maria Victoria Menis' surprising film, "El Cielito", shown recently on the Sundance channel. The director, who collaborated on the screen play with Alejandro Fernandez Murray, takes us along to follow Felix, the young man in the train, as he arrives at a remote town in Argentina.

Felix is a taciturn man who seldom speaks. Roberto, a man with a farm in the vicinity, discovers him at the train station, and offers him a job in his small farm. It's obvious Roberto hates working the land, leaving the hard work to his wife, Mercedes, a woman who appears to be of Indian blood, contrasting with Roberto, who we learn is the son of the European owners of the land, perhaps Italians. For that matter, Felix, like Mercedes, seems to come from an Indian background.

What Felix finds in that strange household is an abused wife, Mercedes, who is the mother of a toddler, Chango, an amazingly sweet boy. One day Chango is passed to Felix, as Mercedes attends to a chore, and the boy is in the way. Thus begins an uncanny relationship between Felix and Chango. Both the young man and the boy become almost an inseparable duo. Felix needs to love someone, and Chango takes to him, sensing perhaps the tension between his parents.

"El Cielito" is a film that shows a promising new voice in the cinema. Ms. Menis' film concentrates in Felix, who is a kind young man in spite of our early suspicion that he was bad. His love for the boy will make him take charge of a situation created by the drunken Roberto and his long suffering wife, Mercedes. It is his love for Chango that will prove to be his undoing as he and the boy come to Buenos Aires in search of a better life, but everything turns out wrong.

Ms. Menis got excellent performances of her cast. Leonardo Ramirez, who plays Felix, is an intense and natural actor who gives a convincing portrayal of a man who loves Chango. Dario Levy is Roberto, a man whose love for a drink makes him a brute. Monica Lairana is also convincing as the abused Mercedes. Little Rodrigo Silva, who is seen as Chango is a boy that steals our heart because of his sweet disposition and the way he loves Felix.

The director ends her film with an dramatic twist which we, as viewers, are not prepared to accept, but nothing in life is easy, as proved in "El Cielito".

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