January 25, 2012
Sundance Review: Mosquita Y Mari
While I can't call it a full on failure, Mosquita Y Mari represents, for me, the first real dud of Sundance 2012. While I applaud the director's efforts to tell a story which is clearly meaningful to her, the story is nothing that hasn't been seen before, and isn't performed all that well by the actors involved. It is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it lacks the imagination and ambition that sets the films from Sundance apart.
Yolanda is a young, Chicana girl living with her parents in Los Angeles. They have instilled in her the mindset that if you she focuses on nothing but school, that she will have an easy future. To that end, Yolanda doesn't get out much, her only "friends" being two, prissy bitches who treat Yolanda as more of an object for them to dominate. Then one day, Mari moves into the house across the street, and by chance is assigned as Yolanda's classroom partner. They strike up a legitimate friendship as Yolanda helps Mari become a better student, and Mari helps Yolanda learn to start living instead of being the shut in she is.
The director, Aurora Guerrero, touts this as a semi-autobiographical film that's based on how she came to discover her first love. That certainly comes across, but the rest of the movie needs work. We are clued into what makes Yolanda and Mari tick, but not anyone else. Their relationships with everyone except each other, and that includes their parents, aren't developed as much, and it hurts the overall package. On top of that, not enough is resolved. The film ends ambiguously, but you are left completely unsure if you are supposed to be feeling emotionally drained, or hopeful, or if you're supposed to be feeling anything at all.
The actors are alright, but it's clear that a lot of them don't do this for a living. The two main girls are, at times, surprisingly wooden, and there are some supporting players who never rise above simple line reading. The only one to consistently display some sort of real charm and wit is the actress playing Yolanda's mother.
Near the end, it gets into more interesting territory and begins to improve, but it's too little, too late. Mosquita Y Mari has its heart in the right place. It just didn't bring enough of a spark to start the fire.