Even though his widowed father’s (Alejandro Goic) pleads with him to straighten up and go back to school, Jesus (Nicolas Duran) is satisfied with running around town all day with his friends. Then a night of drunken revelry leads him and his friends to commit a despicable crime. With the police after them, Jesus’ friendships fall away leaving his father as his only ally. Director Fernando Guzzoni’s challenging depiction of youth gone astray is quite graphic and unsettling. It’s difficult to sympathize with any of the teenagers in this film but it is especially hard to watch an only child constantly disappoint his father.
Even with several very disquieting factors, Chilean filmmaker Fernando Guzzoni’s story about a dysfunctional father/son relationship, is compelling. For most of the week 18-year-old Jesús is left alone to his own devices in Santiago whilst his father (Alejandro Goic ) is away working. Instead of going to school or even getting a job he chooses to waste his time away hanging out with his friends. He lies to his father when he returns home and is always finding ways to try to get more money out of him.
Jesús and his pals spend all their time getting wasted on anything they can get their hands on, and randomly pick up girls to have sex. On one of their very many drunken nights out they stumble upon a half conscious gay man in the park who they mock and taunt before they beat him to the point that they think that he is dead.
The next morning when Jesús awakes sober, he sees on the TV news that the boy they attacked is in critical condition in the ICU department at the Hospital. He panics and turns to his best friend Pizaro (Sebastián Ayala), who had also been one of the assailants and they comfort each other by having sex together. (You might want to read that sentence a second time.)
Over the next few days, the victim’s condition worsens and they are large public vigils in the park where the attack had taken place, Jesús becomes even more worked up, especially after Pizaro tells him that he was thinking going to the police to blame the others. Beto the gang leader comes to his house and threatens him. Jesús is now so scared that when his father comes home he tells him the truth and throws himself on his mercy as he now realizes that he needs help to get himself out of the worsening situation.
The end of this coming-of-age drama/thriller is equally disturbing, and although it comes as something of a shock, on reflection it was the only way that this story could have ended. While the actions of Jesús, and his pals are not those of a neo-Nazi group of thugs like the Police had assumed, but because of their callous disregard for other people’s lives, we feel intense hatred.
Guzzoni successfully builds up the tension of the whole piece by deliberately using sparse lighting for many of the scenes, and using some shaky hand-held camera work. Durán gives an extremely convincing performance as the self-centered and confused Jesús.
This is a harrowing and despicable story that is so powerfully told that we stay engaged to the very last frame. There are ultimately few surprises to found within the film and the atmosphere grows more and more problematic as time slowly progresses. Any hope of feeling sympathy falls flat. The pervasively minimalist vibe holds the viewer at arms length throughout and ultimately dulls the impact of the central character’s increasingly grim life. The film focuses on the question of ‘sin’ and guilt from the point of view of youth and the present. empathy from the viewer. The film tells its tale in two parts—the screenplay gives meticulous details of the everyday reality of the protagonist, Jesús who lives alone with his father who is seldom home and with whom communication is minimal and mutual incomprehension is very high. Jesus is secretly bisexual and very impressionable. Jesús seems most invested in a group of friends who border on delinquency and spend their evenings doing nothing good. Then comes the event that turns the film into a father/son confrontation. Jesús has to face the consequences of his actions (the burden of guilt, threats from his partners in crime) and his father has to decide how far he’s willing to go to protect his son.
The film is striking in its realism and this is, of course, due to the wonderful realism provided by photographer Barbara Alvarez. She plays with the shadows of night and gives the director the perfect conditions for bringing in his style that is filled with menacing atmospheres and a brutal look at society in Chile. We watch the downward spiral that takes Jesús to his catharsis of decision.