Heli (2014): Grim Family Tale from Mexico

heli_1The gifted Mexican director Amat Escalante and his bright cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman have made a powerful, even angry, film that serves as indictment of the inevitably consequences of crime.

The film is released by Cinema Village in limited form on June 11, 2014, two years after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Fest (In Competition).

Armando Espitia plays the titular character, a young man living in a small town with his father, his wife, their baby and his 12-year-old sister Estela (Andrea Vergara).

Heli works at the same car factory as his father, though on different shifts, while his wife is still adjusting to being a mother and recovering from a difficult birth. His sister, a conscientious student, is involved in an unconsummated love affair with an older guy, Beto (Juan Eduardo Palacios), who is treated like dirt in brutal police cadet training sessions in the desert.

One small, foolish act, which allows Beto to hide some drugs in a water tank on the roof of their home, has ricocheting effects on all those around him—it literally sends the lives of her entire family into a tailspin.

Thematically, Heli bears resemblance to Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning Traffic. Thus, sudden involvement of a vicious special crime force and, later, the corrupt local police only aggravate matter more, turning the family into a victim of larger forces that are beyond their control.

Though skillfully directed and impressively shot, Heli is relentlessly grim, depicting characters whose choices (if this is the right word) get more and more limited as the saga unfolds.

Running time: 105 minutes