As Avengers: Age of Ultron and the summer blockbuster season comes upon us, it becomes a relief to find movies that are about more than just explosions.
Days of Grace is a new movie from Mexico that’s well worth your time. It’s directed by Everado Gout and produced by his brother Leopoldo Gout, who also happens to be a friend of mine and producer of a project I’m working on in my day job.
Working in the Film and TV Industry and having friends in it carries certain social obligations. We try to support each other’s work and it becomes very awkward when the work isn’t good. Fortunately, Days of Grace is a terrific movie with things to say and takes us to places we haven’t really seen before. It has a clear social agenda and sense of political commentary as it uses the World Cup to explore life under Mexico City’s rampant criminality. I wouldn’t be writing about this movie if I didn’t think it was good.
Taking as its starting point the notion that the entire country comes to a stop during the World Cup, the movie Interweaves three plotlines set during the World Cup of 2002, 2006 and 2010, the movie follows an idealistic but hot-headed rookie cop who thinks he’s going to be a hero to clean up the street, a businessman’s wife who desperately tries to raise the ransom to save her husband from his kidnappers, and a junior boxer drafted by the local gang to babysit a businessman they’d abducted.
Reviews have been mixed but largely positive. It’s odd to finally see the movie opening now in the US after it had already played everywhere else, and I originally saw it more than a year ago. It’s interesting to thin, think back on my original thoughts and compare them to the reviews. The Guardian thinks the movie is pessimistic and cynical but I think that misses the movie’s desire to shed light on the dark side of society as Cinema is wont to do. I find the movie not cynical so much as despairing. Sometimes the plotlines almost blend into each other but I thought that was the point: that things haven’t changed even with the interval of years, and the same crime and violence continue to erupt even with the grace period of the World Cup.
This is a first movie where the director throws every trick he knows at it to get as much impact as possible: elaborate, ambitious setpieces like the single-take chase down a street during a shootout or staccato editing during the tensest sequences contrasted with slower, more austere pacing during the sedate patches. Real locations, including what are considered crime-ridden no-go zones of the city were used. Violence and hopelessness pervades all three stories. Each plotline has the feel of a different genre: the young cop’s story is a cop noir thriller filled with corruption, betrayals, violent retribution. The wife’s story is a suspense drama about a woman who discovers her kidnapped husband’s secrets. The young boxer’s story is a two-handed chamber piece. Grace is a motif in all three stories, the attempt to attain it, the loss of it, the need for it.
There’s a sense of immediacy in the movies coming out of Mexico and Latin America these days that feel more real than the glossy escapist superhero products coming out of Hollywood these days. I feel like movies from abroad, with less money than Hollywood, tend to more closely reflect their social realities out of a need to tell stories happening right now rather than chase high concepts and tricky twists. Of course, every country has its own share of escapist movies, but Days of Grace is not about escapism but the realities of the Here and Now, with a voice all its own that refuses to compromise. To me, that’s worth more than twenty Batman Vs. Superman movies.
Days of Grace is now playing in select theatres across the U.S.
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