Wednesday, 3 September 2014

REVIEW - FRONTERA (MICHAEL BERRY)


A lazy immigration drama, Frontera is an American's idea of a Mexican's idea of America. Its dialogue sounds American, its themes are explored in an American fashion, Michael Berry's pedestrian mise-en-scene is pointedly American. Sure, it's pointedly pedestrian, like a mealy chomp into a coarse slice of stale bread when you were anticipating a brilliant mouthful of vibrant lemon tart. Frontera appoints Berry as a mighty moral authority on the plight of Mexicans, illegally traversing their homeland's border into the U.S., since it has no other discernible purpose in pursuing these multiple storylines than to judge. The characters, stripped of all independent agency, each seem to respond to stimuli engendered by a callous plot, summoning up one cliched torture after another to nail its point home - that life is real tough for these people and we all should maybe think about being a bit nicer to them. Berry's preaching will fall mostly on deaf ears or on ears who've already heard this a dozen times before. As Berry looks to emulate Paul Haggis' Crash so determinedly that you can actually pinpoint the moments where he expects his cast's Oscar clips to be, only a few glimmers of quality sustain what earnest interest the viewer has remaining. One would find it difficult to deny hoping the best for Michael Pena and his family at first, before Berry and Louis Moulinet's crass screenplay has had its way with them and gutted their story of credibility. And Pena is believable; ditto Ed Harris, and their first scene together, an alternative interrogation sequence, is sturdy and memorable. That's as far as I can go. That's all the goodwill I can muster up for Frontera. Sorry not sorry.