Film festival review: Heli
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I fear this quote from Stephanie Zacharek (in the NZIFF guide) will result in smaller audiences than this film deserves: "I'm not sorry I saw Heli, but the squeamish should know what they're in for".
Yes, this story of a poor Mexican family who find themselves unwittingly thrown into the midst of drug gang wars, has moments of violence. But these are presented without the gore, the Hollywood excesses of blood, sound effects and cruelty that I anticipated.
The few violent scenes actually provided a brilliant contrast to the sweetness of the central storyline, which otherwise could fool you into thinking this will be another 'everything turns out ok in the end' kind of movie. It is this contrast that gave the movie depth and really drew me in.
The story centres on Heli, a young Mexican factory worker, and his relationships with those close to him, his hardworking father, his young wife and their new-born child, along with his sweet but slightly rebellious younger sister, Estella. Estella and her boyfriend, Beto, are adorable together but it is their naivety and heady young love that is ultimately responsible for dragging this family into the torturous world of drug crime and everything that follows.
For those used to fast-paced-action the camera work might seem a little slow. The characters are central to this story and the camera often lingers slightly longer than is comfortable, however this doesn't cause the story to move slowly, instead it gives you much needed time to reflect on what is happening.
It is a beautifully shot film, with moments of torture balanced by moments of humour and insight. When the story ends we're presented with a resolution of sorts, but the characters are scarred and their future is by no means certain.
I really enjoyed Heli and despite the traumatic events inflicted on this family, and the comments the director is presumably making about authorities in Mexico, I came out smiling.
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