José Ramón Chávez / Mexico / 2017 / 90 mins
As part of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2018
Help me make it through the night is being shown as part of this month’s Spanish film festival and is the directorial debut from Mexican director Jose Ramon Chavez. In this film he cleverly takes the ordinary and juxtaposes it with the extraordinary. The action centres around what appears to be a typical middle-class family, living a comfortable existence in an unnamed Mexican city. The mother, Paty, has a severe gambling habit and this is impacting on the whole family. She is rarely seen away from the one-arm bandits in the local casino. Rodrigo, the paterfamilias, is at his wits end, and deciding to take things into his own hands, the film begins with him throwing Paty out of the house. Over one turbulent weekend, their two sons (Luis, who is preparing for marriage to a rather morose, monosyllabic fiancée and Carlos, an ingenious, cheeky scamp) are left to survive in the flotsam and jetsam of their parents’ relationship .
This film has many comedic elements, from Rodrigo’s acts of revenge around the house to Paty’s break-in. The plot is quite believable, although some characters and relationships are slightly one dimensional: the friendship between Gio and father Rodrigo seems unlikely and rather peripheral, whilst the film could have made more of the story of Luis and his fiancée Natalia. Young Carlos, played outstandingly by Luis Amaya, really steals the film. A typical boy on the verge of being a teenager, his mischief and minor thieving is all part of his ingenious plot to bring the family back together.
Unfortunately by the end of the weekend, this family soap opera becomes a tragedy, for one of the main characters does not make it through the night. The audience is left to imagine the devastating impact of this turn of events, which only serves to highlight the pointlessness of the family’s previous squabbles.
With this film, Chavez has thrown a searing spotlight on the devastating impact a gambling addiction can have on a whole family. It’s a story which could take place in any modern city and deserves widespread distribution both at home and abroad.