Greatest Hits: AFI Fest Review

A major miss that almost completely fails to reward viewer involvement.

Mixing together documentary and fiction elements does little to raise the interest level of Nicolas Pereda’s Mexico-set feature.

Nicolas Pereda’s offbeat Mexico-set doc-fiction hybrid has little to recommend it, regardless of narrative form. Lethargically paced, deliberately obscure and largely interest-free, the film will struggle to expand beyond international and Spanish-language sidebars on the festival circuit.

Mid-twenties Gabino (Gabino Rodríguez) lives with his mother Teresa (Teresa Sanchez) in a cramped Mexico City home. His efforts to sell black-market CDs featuring the greatest hits of romantic songwriting realize very little return and he’s essentially broke, which doesn’t seem to dissuade the interest of his shopkeeper girlfriend Luisa (Luisa Pardo).

When Gabino’s father Emilio (Jose Rodríguez) shows up unannounced after a 15-year absence, Teresa grudgingly takes him in, but it turns out he has little to offer their impoverished household. Her old resentments regarding Emilio’s ineffectiveness and his past infidelities quickly resurface, as her husband tries to convince Gabino to invest his marginal income in a vitamin-selling pyramid scheme.

Teresa and Gabino gradually force the marginalized Emilio out of their home and are glad to see him go. In the final reels however, Gabino seeks out Emilio (now replaced by actor Luis Rodríguez) for no particular reason and the two spend an awkward, desultory afternoon together in the older man’s cluttered live-work space.

Pereda’s lightly sketched narrative is further undercut by actors who are essentially playing themselves, speaking uninvolving, everyday dialogue. Even as a documentary, the film has a near-zero interest factor, only going further off the rails with an attempt to add semi-fictional elements.

With a bit more effort and a few stylistic tweaks, Pereda could perhaps have cultivated a potentially intriguing semi-experimental narrative, but with neither a definitive theme or plot, the film just drifts from one scene to the next.

This unfortunate situation is only compromised further by the squandering of Pereda’s obvious filmmaking talent on a pointlessly limited visual vocabulary, an almost conflict-free plot and documentary-like performances that all contribute to an overall impression of torpor and stagnation.

Venue: AFI Fest

Cast: Teresa Sanchez, Gabino Rodríguez, Luisa Pardo, Jose Rodríguez, Luis Rodríguez

Director/screenwriter: Nicolas Pereda
Producers: Sandra Gomez, Maximiliano Cruz
Directors of photography: Alejandro Coronado, Pedro Gómez
Editor: Nicolás Pereda

Not Rated, 93 minutes