Nobody would question the fact that Antonio Mendez Esperanza’s Here and There (Aquí y Allá, 2012) raises some extremely important and relevant points about the challenges faced by Latin American migrant workers. Yet, even the most ardent fans of slow cinema may well find Esperanza’s film a chore. The narrative follows protagonist Pedro, who has returned to his home village after a stint working menial jobs in the US. Reunited with his family, which consists of wife Teresa and two daughters Lore and Heide, he sets about trying for form a band in an attempt to make extra money.
Along the way the family face a series of wide ranging problems including mounting medical costs, unemployment and the effect Pedro’s absence has had on his relationship with his daughters. Whilst Esperanza has been ambitious and bold in the economic and sociological territory that he wishes to discuss, there are notable problems with this slow-paced drama. Divided into four sections, the director has used long, anguishing takes that demand our attention.
The title, which has been shortened, should translate as ‘Here and Over There’, and has been used to add to the structure the tale where ‘Here’ refers to a small Mexican village in the foothills of the Guerrero region and ‘Over There’ is America. Whilst the long takes are not a problem in themselves, the approach requires that there must be a pay-off for the taxing scenes. Sadly, the emotional and intellectual quality of Here and There far from provides it. This is made worse by the poor quality edit which feels clumsy at best, often destroying the atmosphere of the few finer moments of the film.
Esperanza has also made the decision to cast non-professional actors. This at times provides a documentary quality to the film and the odd genuinely touching moment contained in the family unit. Yet, when the actors are required to provide the emotional punch they disappoint and occasionally become embarrassing to watch in their flat delivery. The writing itself is of a low calibre, and we are literally told what the characters are feeling rather than shown, inexcusable in a film with over a two hour run time.
However noble Here and There is in its attempts to discuss such a large problem faced by much of Latin America, it is very poorly realised, leaving a tired and flat feeling that the time invested has not been well spent.
The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. For more of our LFF coverage, simply follow this link.