Israel Adrián Caetano's A RED BEAR (Un Oso Rojo)
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Julio Chávez and Soledad Villamil as the ex-con and the wife.Director Caetano makes a beautiful gem of a movie out of worn out concepts:
- Ex con tries to make things right with his estranged wife who has taken up with another man during his 5-year prison term.
- His daughter does not know him and he sets out to change that.
- He tries to go straight but is pulled back by circumstances to consider “one last job”
We’ve seen these things before. Here they are woven together with sensitivity, heartfelt emotion, exemplary camera work that never intrudes, and wonderful performances.
Events take place on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a desperate hardscrabble suburbia we seldom see. Times are tough. People live on the edge. Evictions are common.
In the midst of all this the wife tries to raise her little girl in a normal way. Into her tough life her husband returns. She is torn between the anger she feels about his betrayal of her through his crimes and her realization that he is, after all, the little girls’ father. Plus, she is desperate because her live in boyfriend is an unemployed gambler. Not an easy life for all concerned.
There is occasional violence in this movie. When it happens it is fast, furious, and shocking. But the most affecting moments come between the father and the little girl. One scene in particular is heartbreaking. On a pleasant outing to an amusement park the father puts the girl on a merry go round. It is a normal, peaceful family event. Nothing out of the ordinary. But while the girl circles around two policemen stop and frisk the former convict. The father is humiliated in front of his daughter as he stands spread-eagle against the merry go round’s fence as he is searched. The look on her face is tragic.
Not everything in this movie rises to this level but the clear eyed view of desperate people is for the most part well maintained throughout. This movie is more proof that you don’t need a massive budget or special effects to create an emotionally engaging film. Plus, it’s another benefit of streaming Netflix and its supply of little-known (to me) “foreign” films.
Review copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald