Waking up in the middle of the night to a crying baby, Elvira (Cecilia Suárez) calms her children down and tells her husband Gustavo (Carlos Bardem) that he should get used to it. He excuses himself and heads to the nearest pharmacy to buy some cigarettes. He never returns. Concerned, she files a report for a missing person, even though it is quite clear after rummaging through his things that he has run away. With another man. Investigating further, she finds out that Adrián (Luis Gerardo Méndez) is working with him at the office and that the two have fled to Acapulco. Low on funds and needing to maintain her household, she seeks the help of her friend Eloy (Angie Cepeda) who manages a funeral parlor. There she starts working as a professional mourner to make ends meet, and crosses paths with Ricardo (Luis Gerardo Méndez), one of the staff members who is a dead ringer of the guy her husband left her for.
What probably went wrong is that they marketed this film as a comedy, when in fact it really isn’t. The funny scenes are few and far between. What abounds in the storyline are the circumstances and their corresponding resolutions that all seem too far detached from reality. But there’s something in the flow of the story that warns you about it anyway, and prompts you to just take everything with a grain of salt. The focus here is the dissection of Elvira’s life as a woman in her 40’s, forced to face sudden changes in the routinary reality she has always known. It’s that abrupt shakeup that gives the narrative its flavor, a unique take on midlife crisis as viewed from the lens of a middle-aged mother of two.
Or maybe it IS funny from the perspective of the right target market. Who else can identify better with Elvira than the bored housewives themselves, those who can no longer run away from the lifetime commitment that is motherhood? Come to think of it, it is way easier for men to shy away from the responsibility of parenthood, but the mothers are always the ones who are obliged to stay. It can even be argued that it is the main premise of the film: Elvira’s search for the “love of her life”. Is that even possible when you already have two kids in tow? The plot revolves around such argument, and we see both successes and failures along the way. In effect, the movie succeeds in its social critique of the role that women have been playing in our society since time immemorial.
The character switch is rather disorienting. Whatever dramatic effect they were aiming for falls flat upon presentation, but easily corrected and understood with the montage of flashbacks that follows. In the end, you just accept that perhaps Elvira’s state of mind then was simply an apt representation of her damaged psyche, turning her into an unreliable narrator. It is amusing to some extent and in a way, it supports the significance and intensity of her obsession, which is really one of the main aspects that propels the plot forward. Without this plot device, there’s won’t be any interesting story to tell.
Having seen some of the roles Méndez has portrayed in his filmography, it becomes quite evident that he is a versatile actor. When you sit back and analyze the characters that he has played, they all seem to share a common profile, and yet it is not that hard to distinguish one from the other thanks to the subtle nuances that he employs to differentiate them. Even in this dual role, he manages to breathe life into two distinct personalities who just couldn’t be one and the same, despite the undeniable resemblance. Suarez, on the other hand, has a poignant breakdown scene, a culmination which highlights her acting chops. She is such a brilliant actress, and she always exudes this certain appeal so classy that she remains elegant regardless how disheveled her character requires her to be. The result is always a beautiful disaster, an aesthetically pleasing train wreck that really draws you in.
Overall, don’t expect to laugh that hard, unless you are that deranged and in the same page as Elvira to the point that everything might seem like a parody of your own life. For those who simply can’t relate, a little bit of imagination might help. Or think of it as an educational material about midlife crisis. Who knows, one day you might find yourself dealing with the same dilemma. At least, Elvira will have already warned you somehow.