“Listen to me, my darling — you’re not that bad.”
In the slums of Mexico City, a boy (Alfonso Mejia) whose over-worked mother (Estela Inda) refuses to love him joins forces with a thuggish ex-con (Roberto Cobo) who swears him to secrecy after witnessing a murder.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Juvenile Delinquents
- Luis Bunuel Films
- Single Mothers
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “strong social drama, directed by Luis Bunuel” possesses a “realistic atmosphere” and “unsympathetic portrayal of young gang members… whose constant hunger is no excuse for” their “sadistic” behavior. He comments that “Bunuel offers no solution to the juvenile-delinquency problem — although the mother is chastised for being a neglectful parent — but conveys that a boy growing up in such poverty is doomed”. He adds that “viewers will be shocked at how unsentimental and uncompromising the film is”, given that the “kids are brutal and he doesn’t spare them tragic ends that are usually reserved for adults in movies”. Thankfully, “memorable surrealistic dream sequences” occasionally lift the material into the realm of compassion and psychological insight — and the lyrical soundtrack prevents one from devolving into utter despair while watching these kids trying to survive in such an unforgiving world. Although Bunuel’s story isn’t pleasant, it resonates with authenticity, and should be seen at least once.
Note: Peary writes that this film “ranks with De Sica’s Shoeshine” — which he adores — but I find Bunuel’s non-sentimental approach more impactful than De Sica’s.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography
- The effectively surreal mother-son dream sequence
- Fine ethnographic footage of life in Mexico City
- Many moments of heartbreaking violence and squalor
Yes, as a powerful if bleak classic.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)