Review: The Other Son
- In his début, Colombian film maker Juan Sebastián Quebrada shows, extreme sensitivity and a mastery of acting direction in his portrayal of the process of mourning the death of a teenager
The opening minutes of The Other Son [+see also:
film profile] - the début film from Colombian director Juan Sebastián Quebrada in the New Directors section of the 71st San Sebastián International Film Festival - are devoted almost exclusively to Simon. He is a good looking, charismatic teenager with an apparent desire to grab life, and the world, with both hands. We see him get violent when his ex girlfriend does not want to have sex with him, and we see him euphoric as he dances and takes drugs with his friends and his brother Federico at a party. The film does not take long to show us Simon for the last time. We see him lying on the ground in the middle of a pool of blood after falling from a great height. Immediately afterwards we see the horror and incomprehension on the face of Federico, who we will join for the rest of the film on an immensely painful but paradoxically hopeful journey.
The film tells us about the effects of Simon’s unexpected and devastating death on those closest to him. The action rests mainly on Federico, played by a magnetic Miguel Gonzalez who performs this demanding role with great maturity. Through the eyes of the protagonist, from whom Quebrada's camera never strays too far, we see how the dead teen's environment is broken into pieces, ravaged by the tragedy. There are particularly heartbreaking scenes where Clara (the magnificent Jenny Navarrete), the boys’ mother, is completely ripped apart, incapable of processing the immensity of her pain. The main highlight of the film is the tone: how the director manages to describe in detail and without ambiguity the profound darkness that his characters are going through. And yet it is not excessive. At no point does the film give in to the temptation of indulging in sentimentality. The drama permeates everything, but so does love and respect for people who we empathise immediately, thanks the excellent writing and, above all, the enormous commitment of the entire cast.
It is also interesting how the film manages to offer a lively and hopeful vision of youth. The portrait of adolescence - perhaps the most emotionally complicated age for any human - avoids clichés and paternalism. As it dives deeper into the relationship between Federico and Laura (Simon’s ex-girlfriend, played brilliantly by Ilona Almansa), the film enters minefield territory, but navigates it steadily and safely. The complexity of the teens’ emotions hits the audience hard as we witness their process of self-discovery and healing.
The Other Son is an inevitably painful film. It is a no-frills, no-risk work in terms of shape, with a sobriety that acts in its favour when it comes to delving into the complex emotions that plague the characters and creates closeness with the audience. The clever and subtle use of music, which far from stressing the emotions wraps them up and takes the edge of them, is the icing on the cake in the remarkable début work.
The Other Son is a production of the Colombian company Evidencia Films, with the French company Geko Films and Argentinean company Le Tiro. Film Factory Entertainment is responsible for international sales.
(Translated from Spanish by Alexandra Stephens)
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