December 15, 2017
Friday, August 1, 2014

Serene, luminous take on life and loss

A scene from Claudia Sainte-Luces award-winning drama Los insólitos peces gato.
A scene from Claudia Sainte-Luces award-winning drama Los insólitos peces gato.
A scene from Claudia Sainte-Luces award-winning drama Los insólitos peces gato.
By Pablo Suárez
For the Herald
Mexican drama Los insólitos peces gato is not a tearjerker, it’s the real deal

Claudia (Ximena Ayala) is a 22-year-old woman who lives alone and works in a supermarket. One night, she’s rushed to the hospital because of a bad case of appendicitis. There, she meets Martha (Lisa Owen), the woman resting in the bed next to hers. She’s a 46-year-old-widow with four children and plenty of joie de vivre, in spite of her severe illness. In no time, Martha wins Claudia’s trust and invites her to go home with her family as soon as they leave the hospital.

At first, Claudia feels disoriented by the singular dynamics of this new family, but she soon starts feeling at ease. Actually, for the first time ever she senses she belongs to a place with people she cares for and who care for her. As Martha’s health weakens, the bond Claudia has established with each member of the family grows deeper. All of them are now making the most of their time together since the future won’t bring a brighter tomorrow.

If you think the Mexican feature Los insólitos peces gato, written and directed by Claudia Sainte-Luce, is yet another family drama with illness at its core, with cries and whispers and tears left and right, then think again. For starters, you won’t find traces of melodrama here. Nothing is ever over the top. Nobody is larger than life. There are no sudden reversals of fortune. Nothing is either black or white.

Of course there’s pathos here, but not without a light and most appropriate touch of comedy that renders the characters and their universe all the more believable. No circumstances or situations are ever contrived, as they steam out naturally from a very organic screenplay. It goes without saying that the very convincing performances are a great asset too. That’s why you can easily get involved in the drama and care for the characters as you are genuinely touched by their fate. Call it a most inspired naturalistic drama and you’d be right.

And within this smoothly accomplished naturalism, Los insólitos peces gato succeeds at being a serene, luminous film about the imminence of loss and the advent of profound sorrow. Sometimes, the comfort of strangers is all it takes to allow life and death to take place in their due time.

That’s why this affectionate story is about exchanging places, saying goodbyes, and opening new paths. But with no sugarcoating, no enlightening messages, no big meanings. It’s the real stuff.

Limited release: Lorca, BAMA Cine Arte, Artemultiplex, Del Centro (Rosario)

Production notes

Los insólitos peces gato (Mexico, 2013). Written and directed by Claudia Sainte-Luce. With Ximena Ayala, Lisa Owen, Sonia Franco, Wendy Guillén, Andrea Baeza, Alejandro Ramírez-Muñoz. Cinematography by Agnès Godard. Editing by Santiago Ricci. Running time: 89 minutes.

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