With echoes of the moral ambiguity of Eric Rohmer and the emotional torrents of John Cassavetes, Gerardo Naranjo’s probing second feature, Drama/Mex, is an urgent and melancholic look at emotional entrapment as it affects five people over the course of one day in Acapulco. Two stories are interwoven: the first of a suicidal father, Jamie (Fernando Becerril), and a wayward runaway girl named Tigrillo (Miriana Moro), who meet on a beach and spend the day together; and the second of Fernanda (Diana Garcia), a young woman whose relationship with her current boyfriend, Gonzalo (Juan Pablo Castañeda), is compromised when her manipulative ex-boyfriend, Chano (Emilio Valdés), shows up. In their own way, each of them is trying to flee a prison they have built for themselves; their decisions, however, threaten to ensnare them even further in labyrinthine indiscretions and self-delusions.
Director-writer Naranjo has achieved the rare and insightful creation of characters that are brutally raw without being misanthropic or exploitive, which is to say that for all the hysteria and emotional breakdowns in the film, Drama/Mex never feels as though it is merely an exercise in dramatic excess. Nor is it judgmental: the film is rife with fruitful ambiguities that offer no dumbed-down profundities but rather a sense of reticence and nuance that allows sympathy, rather than pity, for the characters and their misgivings.
Executive-produced by New Mexican Cinema heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal, Drama/Mex is perhaps less groundbreaking than Bernal’s landmark vehicles Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien, but it nonetheless affirms Mexico’s continuing role as one of the leading forces in contemporary cinema.