Detrás de la Montaña [Beyond the Mountain] (2018)

Detrás de la Montaña
Director: David R. Romay
Writer: David R. Romay
Cast: Benny Emmanuel, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Renée Sabina, Enrique Arreola, Marcela Ruiz Esparza
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 07.06.2020

Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) lives a quiet life with his alcoholic mother (Marcela Ruiz Esparza) whom he takes care off. He works as a clerk to write letters for analphabetic people and always looks forward to Carmela (Renée Sabina) who often comes to send letters to her boyfriend. When Miguel finds his mother dead at home, clutching a letter with his father’s name and address, Miguel packs everything and leaves to find the father he never knew, determined to kill him. But things don’t quite go the way he plans.

Detrás de la Montaña isn’t bad for a debut feature, but unfortunately, it really doesn’t treat its women very well and that took my appreciation for the film away pretty quickly.

The film poster showing Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) with a bandaid on his forehead in blue-green-pink lighting.

The film centers on Miguel, and Benny Emmanuel does a great job with the role and carrying the film. But centering on Miguel means two things: one, we get yet another entry into the daddy issues movie genre and I am tired. Two, there are exactly two women who are important to Miguel in his entire life, his mother and Carmela. His mother dies in the first few minutes and doesn’t really get a personality other than “dependent on Miguel and alcohol” and “still in love and resentful with the man how left her while she was giving birth 20 years ago”. She’s a catalyst for the rest of the film, not an actual person.

Things are even more problematic with Carmela: Miguel is obsessed with her, meaning that he actually doesn’t faithfully type the letters she asks him to write to her boyfriend, but makes them colder. And then, when he ends up in the city where her boyfriend lives, he just goes there in the hopes of meeting her – aka he stalks her. He finds Carmela out on the streets, her boyfriend gone and she has no place to turn to. He offers her a place to stay, apparently too naive to realize what this offer must look like to her. She declines at first, but soon she is desperate enough to take him up on the offer. She hopes she can get his help to return home and he sees the start of a new romance, not aware of the many creep factors in her dependence on him. And the film ultimately proves him right. And I just really couldn’t take this. At least Sabina hits all the right notes with her performance.

Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) talking to Carmela (Renée Sabina).

I was much more emotionally invested with Carmela and her fucked up situation than I was with Miguel and his daddy quest. Whenever the film turned to that, I noticed how my eyes started rolling about it all, starting with Miguel’s entire plan and then the way it is resolved in the end. It just didn’t work for me.

That being said, Romay does show promise as a filmmaker and I can imagine that his next film will already feel more mature. And maybe have some women in it that actually get to be something more than they are here.

Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) out drinking with his co-worker José (Enrique Arreola).

Summarizing: Not my thing.

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