Gueros is, to put it simply, a stylish black-and-white Mexican road movie; the debut feature from director Alonso Ruizpalacios. It doesn’t take you long to realise, however, that under the surface this film has a certain self-awareness and intelligence which helps it stand out as a unique entry in its genre.
The film opens with troublesome teen Tomas dropping a water balloon onto a woman pushing her baby in a pram – one of numerous instances, it seems, that have stressed out his single mother to the extent that she no longer feels she can cope with him. Thus, the solution is to send him to live with older brother Federico and his roommate in Mexico City. It is primarily these three young men, and later Federico’s love interest (kind of), around whom the action revolves, complimented by dialogue that is often humourous but never crass.
First screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2014, Gueros bears a relatively unknown cast as it pertains to British eyes – though Tenoch Huerta, who plays Federico, briefly appeared in 2015’s Spectre and The 33 (based on the 2010 Chilean mining disaster).
It’s not hard to see why this film has done so well on the festival circuit. Whilst it has a quirky appearance, it also deals with serious subject matter in a light-hearted manner, both in the style of direction taken by Ruizpalacios and its script.
Federico appears to struggle with depression and anxiety, while there are elements of sexism and racism strewn throughout the narrative. The latter is referenced by the name of the movie (‘Gueros’ meaning blondie, a seemingly offensive term used by darker skinned Mexicans) and more subtly by its lack of colour – which seems to be a way of not drawing the audience’s attention to the issue of skin tone. When we look at the characters we don’t see them in colour; this, perhaps, was the director’s main point in making this stylistic choice.
Overall, Gueros is a unique, smart film that can be enjoyed both by audiences who simply want some light-hearted entertainment and those who come looking for something more.
8 / 10