Tuesday, November 1, 2016

El Jeremías


With an IQ of 160, eight-year-old Jeremías (Martín Castro) has always had more questions than answers. Why does his mother sing about monsters swallowing children to put him to sleep? Why do old people think that kids don’t need privacy in the bathroom? Why is Pluto no longer a planet? His mother, Paloma (Karem Momo), is supportive, but she doesn’t understand him. His father, Onésimo (Paulo Galindo), is aloof about his son’s intellect, and he doesn’t understand him. His fellow students are not of the same wavelength either. Frustrated, he befriends a retired librarian with whom he starts playing chess on a regular basis. When the old man suggests that the kid take an exam because he believes him to be a genius, they all discover that, indeed, he is. Capturing the attention of a physiologist producing a documentary for gifted children, Jeremías now has more questions than he can ever handle, including the most important one: What does he want to be when he grows up?

There is something amusing about kids who talk and act like adults, and it seems like this premise has already been sampled in many cultures via various national cinemas. It’s always an entertaining feature, which is why many find it weird that this film sort of bombed at the box office. Or perhaps it’s because they went head-to-head with Doctor Strange? Revenues aside, El Jeremías is a really enjoyable movie. It does reek with the absurdity of a boy barely 10 years of age agonizing over his career options, what with the many thirty-year-olds you know who are still caught in the endless rut of daily survival. But it sends a positive message, not just about knowing what you want in life, but also the central role that the family plays in the development of an individual.

The family in question belongs to a simple household in Sonora, living a rather simple yet comfortable life. It’s easy to see how one can feel stuck or stagnated in such a small locale, which is why the kid’s amazement upon seeing the capital for the first time is not surprising at all. The odd bit is that most people take time before they realize that their dreams are in the big city. For Jeremías, that epiphany came too early. Perhaps, the family is also to blame? His father appears to be the happy-go-lucky simpleton who has no ambition in life. The mother, at least, shows some determination in becoming somebody. Momo’s heartfelt performance is moving, both as a stay-at-home wife yearning for something bigger than preparing dinner or washing the dishes, and as a doting mom who wants her child to be proud of her.

Galindo is funny and elicited the most laughs in the cinema, what with his airhead one-liners and typical Naco demeanor. The only problem with his portrayal is that it almost comes off as a caricature of sorts, making the character too one-dimensional to merit sympathy, which is probably why you will easily empathize more with Paloma. The other characters serve their purpose. The senile great grandmother is funny. The overtly Catholic grandmother is funny. The druggie young uncle is not that funny, but he is utilized effectively as a plot device for Jeremías’ discovery of his potential for music.

There are several scenarios which seem too detached from reality, but Castro’s charm overshadows those loopholes anyway. His acting is convincing enough, although in some scenes with kilometric dialogues, his delivery seems a bit rehearsed. But then again, this kid has a lot of time ahead of him to develop his acting repertoire. Here’s hoping that he won’t fade into obscurity, or worse, thread the destructive child actor path as he comes of age. Maybe he will find more projects on television. Roles like this only come once in a blue moon. It’s something that you just can’t recycle because it quickly loses its novelty.

Overall, the comedy is derived from the hilarity of seeing a young kid spouting arguments of an adult. That scene where Jeremías constantly rebuffs their old Catholic grandma neighbor quoting the likes of Nietzche is plain hilarious. There simply are no holds barred for an inquisitive mind, especially if it is that of a young boy who knows that he is intellectually more capable than his peers.

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