The strong and refreshing Mexican movie, Drama/Mex, is set in the beach resort of Acapulco. And whereas Acapulco usually means fun, parties and sightseeing, the film reaches deep into a world that is not fun at all. At least, not a fun world understood in the traditional way. Hold on. This is a trip into the experience of real Mexicans during a single night, and the one in charge of this well-constructed journey to the dark side of human nature is the young filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo.
Inspired–according to the filmmaker–by the work of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Naranjo employs a style of non-stop camera moves and builds a narrative structure divided into three segments. Though there is no apparent connection, these stories share common key plots and eventually Naranjo attains a solid ensemble: a coherent work that can be seen as one unit. Or, perhaps, as a stylized three-headed monster.
The first head is about a love triangle involving a forbidden affair between Fernanda (Diana García) and her ex boyfriend Chano (Emilio Valdés), who is back in town after a long absence. In this section, Naranjo’s camera seeks pain and deception and finds rich material. Of course, Fernanda (hurt by Chano’s departure) once again falls in love with Chano. He is a wild outlaw, with the charm and spirit of Michel Poiccard, Jean Paul Belmondo’s wild outlaw in Jean Luc Godard’s masterpiece, Breathless.
The couple’s love/hate relationship is pure chemistry on screen and both actors (García and Valdés) succeed even in very strong scenes such as a violent sex scene. Does it sound harsh? Yes, but Naranjo manages not to scandalize the actors or the audience. In this film, produced by Mexican stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, the young filmmaker creates and shoots three-dimensional stories and follows his characters with a camera in constant movement (which is often an option to make empty films seem artistic) in order to support the dramatic idea of the absence of control: anarchy and emotional chaos.
The monster’s second head is when suffering Gonzalo (Juan Pablo Castañeda), a soccer fan and Fernanda’s current boyfriend, finds out the truth: She’s cheating on him. Gonzalo’s jealous reaction is convincing (Naranjo has noted that Gonzalo’s character is inspired by personal experiences), and his character emerges as a strong force in Drama/Mex: his pure feelings of anger and jealousy fights against the natural attraction between Fernando and Chano. Gonzalo is like a human intervention against something bigger and stronger, called, in a phrase, basic animal desire.
Gonzalo’s deception is as deep as Jaime Jaimes’ (Fernando Becerrin) frustration: His story is the third head of Drama/Mex and maybe the most disturbing segment. Jaime is a frustrated bureaucrat who steals a load of money. As his cynical existence is crossed by a double morality (a family man who practices incest; an apparently decent worker who becomes a thief), it reaches a crisis point: he cannot cope with such huge lies and flees to Acapulco, where he rents a place, tries to kill himself and meets a young street girl called Tigrillo (the amazing Mariana Moro, producer of the film and a non- professional actress): the only character who knows who she is and is able to deal with it.
There are no masks in Drama/Mex, a magnificent study of lonely souls slowly burning under the Acapulco moon and under the painful truth: the truth of not being loved, the truth of being a monster, the truth of deception. Sad, but true. Nobody can hide. Even in a paradise like Acapulco.