Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tigers Are Not Afraid, or: Feelings Are Very Dead

Watch whatever you want in November, they said. It will be fun, and you will in no way regret the gloomy weather reflecting the dark tone of your films, they said. Well, guess what: this week’s pick for the Collab is incredibly heavy, but (spoiler?), well worth the watch.

The Film:

Tigers Are Not Afraid

The Premise:

A group of children flee the leaders of a violent drug cartel after stealing a phone that stores incriminating information.

The Ramble:

In a small town in Mexico, warring drug cartels have unleashed violence on their enemies and bystanders alike. With classes suspended due to the violence, young Estrella has little to distract her from her mother’s disappearance. Gifted 3 pieces of chalk that will give her 3 wishes, Estrella first requests her mother come back.

Unfortunately, this wish goes badly as Estrella’s mother has died but now haunts her. As she waits in her empty house, a looter breaks into the house to steal anything left of value. The looter is Shine, a child no older than Estrella, advises her to leave as the only people who will return are the members of the Huascas cartel.

four children stand behind the tall bars of a white fence

Acknowledging that she can’t make it on her own, Estrella tracks down Shine and his crew, a group of orphaned boys living in a makeshift home on the streets. The group is in added danger at the moment as Shine has stolen the gun and phone of one of the Huascas–and there seems to be something on the phone they are none too keen to share on Instagram. After the group is ambushed for the phone, the Huascas abduct the youngest and cutest of the kids.

a girl sits in an improvised shelter outside, a boy next to her

To prove her trustworthiness and to get their brother back, Shine charges Estrella with taking out Caco, the man who is after them. Though armed with a gun, Estrella is fully prepared to use a wish to kill Caco; as it turns out, neither murder weapon is needed as he has already been shot. Estrella decides there’s no need for the others to know this and fudges the truth just a bit. Either way, the gang is back together again, though with some additional traumatized children stolen by the Huascas.

After Estrella has a dream about a mansion with a swimming pool and soccer field, she insists the group relocate–not least so they can hide from the Huascas. When they break into an abandoned mansion, it seems Estrella was right, and the children can briefly act like children.

a girl stands in a room of an abandoned house, walls stripped bare and floor covered with a muddy puddle

However, it’s not long before reality catches up to our group of orphans, and Estrella realizes they will have to take drastic action to escape the Huascas. Calling a truce with leader of the Huascas, Chino, Estrella promises to return the phone as long as the Huascas get off their back.

Is this truce the miraculous answer to their problems the children have waited for?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Oh, my heart. The story itself is devastating, made even more impactful by its telling through the eyes of children. The members of the Huascas cartel are merciless, interpreting all around them, including children, as either obstacles or products to be used or sold. Through all of this, the children struggle to make sense of the world and find hope despite the relentless terror they live with.

The cartel’s victims as ghosts seeking revenge is effective, and shows the real horror of humanity to be much more disturbing than restless spirits. More chilling is witnessing the children seeing violence on a daily basis and becoming immune to it. They also discuss murder quite casually, both as they see it and commit acts of violence themselves that test their innocence and resilience.

The titular tigers appear throughout the film as a bit of a magic realism, asking the question of what it means to be fierce and what a fighter looks like.

Well worth a watch, but you may need some tissues, comfort chocolate, and/or a fuzzy animal to cuddle.

Would my warrior blog wife give this one a gentle cuddle or a swift slash at the throat? Read her review here to find out!

a woman with a tumbler of alcohol sits in a chair, holding a cigarette and looking ahead
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Frida, or: Cry Me a River(a)

Our experiment with biopics and films based on true stories draws to a close!  This week, we break away from the subtheme of dirtbag men…and yet still manage to get our share of dirtbaggery.  We’re talking about women in the art world, after all–specifically, a painter who is now one of the world’s most renowned.

The Film:

Frida

The Premise:

This biopic follows the life of Frida Kahlo from her school days through relationship with muralist Diego Rivera and her own success as a painter.

The Ramble:

In the 1920s, a young Frida is a free-spirited student.  Close with her family, and especially so with her father, Frida boldly proclaims she will never marry.  Posing for her sister’s wedding photos in a men’s suit, it’s clear from the start this is a woman determined to live on her own terms.

Tragically, Frida’s schooling is cut short when a streetcar accident leaves her temporarily paralyzed and in chronic pain for the rest of her life.  Though she is eventually able to walk again, Frida’s time confined to her bed changes the path of her life–the only thing she is able to do all day is paint self-portraits.

a woman lies on her back in bed while painting a self-portrait

With medical bills piling up, Frida is determined to contribute to the household.  In a fateful move, she demands acclaimed muralist Diego Rivera critique her work and tell her if it’s good enough to make a living.  Impressed with her painting, Rivera quickly takes her under his wing and brings her into the Communist party crowd.  And I mean party in multiple senses of the word.

Both Frida and Diego drink a LOT.  While Diego gets angry and argumentative at parties, Frida opts for flirting with ladies in slinky dresses.  Even as Diego agrees he and Frida will be friends only, the two begin a sexual relationship.  Despite neither believing in marriage, it’s not long before the two have said their vows (and almost everyone in their circle places a bet on how long their wedded bliss will last).

a woman drinks alcohol straight from the bottle as another woman looks at her

Not long, is the answer.  Frida is furious when she learns Diego’s ex lives in the apartment above theirs while she finds a place of her own.  After an angry confrontation, Frida ends up with a new friend who teaches her to make the mole Diego loves.

Though Diego sleeps around, he promises loyalty to Frida if not fidelity.  The two get into SO MANY fights that often end with broken kitchenware, but they always make up.

Meanwhile, Diego faces critique from members of his own party for the government-sponsored murals he paints.  Diego argues his murals spread a socialist message for the people, though other Communists believe painting for the government makes him complicit in their policies.

With an unfinished mural on the wall behind them, a woman holding a bottle of alchohol sits next to a man covered in paint

Tired of this fight, Diego accepts an invitation to New York for an exhibition of his work.  Frida travels with him as she learned from Diego’s ex to never leave him to his own devices.  However, Frida instantly hates the idolization of wealth and ambition she encounters in the States, and the false smiles on every face.  Diego, on the other hand, loves the praise, admiration, and number of women always on his arm.  When Diego pushes things too far by including Lenin in a commissioned mural, the couple finally returns home to Mexico.

two women husk corn at a table, while a monkey sits beside them, and two children in the background play with a dog

Frida’s spirits lift, but Diego falls into a deep depression.  When he has an affair with Frida’s sister, who has recently left her abusive husband, Frida is finally sick of this shit and moves away.  She once again drinks A LOT, both alone and at parties.

That is, until Diego, who has agreed to host the exiled Trotsky, asks for her help in welcoming him to the country.  This plan works a little too well when Frida begins a relationship with Trotsky.

Eventually, Frida and Diego make up (IDK if this counts as a spoiler?), though her mobility and overall health decline.  Bedridden when she finally has an exhibition in her own country, Frida is determined to be at the opening.  What’s an artist to do?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I just love Frida.  Truly, has a more fascinating human ever existed?  Salma Hayek captures her energy, intelligence, and charisma here.  The film blends some surreal elements with life in a way that feels very Frida, and frequently weaves her paintings into the story.  Since her paintings are so personal, placing her work in the context of her life gives us a greater understanding of the pain behind them.

The film doesn’t shy away from Frida’s chronic pain, bisexuality, or infamously turbulent relationship with Diego.  I enjoy that other characters sometimes directly ask why Frida stays married to Diego in spite of everything, and the non-judgmental approach the film takes in response.  Whether we as a contemporary audience understand or accept her reasons, as a human of flaws and contradictions, they are her own.

I will say the one thing I do really like about this film’s portrayal of Diego is his encouragement of Frida’s art.  She constantly dismisses her own talent, but Diego frequently tells her and others what a skilled painter she is.

I’m obsessed with this film and its subject, even as it proves that behind every great woman is a dirtbag man.

Would my blog wife paint a beautiful portrait of this one or throw a plate at its head?  Read her review here to find out!