Hell is for Heli

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -


Di­rected by Amat Es­calante. Star­ring Ar­mando Espi­tia, An­drea Ver­gara, Juan Ed­uardo Pala­cios Club, IFI, Dublin, 105 min When, in the early stages of this harsh, ni­hilis­tic de­pic­tion of life in con­tem­po­rary Mex­ico, a young girl hap­pens upon a cute lit­tle puppy, in­formed view­ers will brace them-

Lit­tle girl lost: An­drea Ver­gara as Estela

selves for im­pend­ing cani­cide. Sure enough, within half an hour, gun­wield­ing van­dals have bro­ken the un­for­tu­nate beast’s neck.

That’s what hap­pens in harsh, ni­hilis­tic de­pic­tions of life in con­tem­po­rary Mex­ico. A few mo­ments later, a young man has his pe­nis set on fire. At this point, when Heli screened at Cannes last year, more than a few timid re­view­ers placed hands over mouths and tip­toed for the exit.

It’s worth be­ing face­tious about such is­sues, be­cause, other­wise hugely pow­er­ful, Heli lets it­self down at these points. Amat Es­calante, di­rec­tor of the equally trou­bling San­gre, has made an im­pres­sively sin­is­ter drama about the way (to para­phrase Philip Larkin) man hands mis­ery onto man. Un­for­tu­nately, in­ci­dents such as the one with the doomed puppy seem more than a lit­tle gra­tu­itous. It’s as if Es­calante is cut­ting his own skin so that he may later os­ten­ta­tiously pick at the scab.

The ex­cel­lent Ar­mando Espi­tia plays the tit­u­lar car worker. As the film be­gins, Heli is liv­ing a hum­ble but tol­er­a­ble sort of life. Then Estela (An­drea Ver­gara), his young sis­ter, be­comes in­volved with an older po­lice cadet named Beto (Juan

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