Another gritty Mexican drama highlighting corruption, violence, and the growing impossibility of innocence remaining innocent, Heli is a gripping, well acted piece which will hopefully do well around the world with foreign film aficionados. Heli is the title character, the young man who acts as the alpha in his meager household – living with his wife, child, sister, and father. He and his father have simple, manual labour jobs which keep them at a distance from the apparent all-encompassing threat and allure of drug dealing which surrounds their town. He is having marital struggles with his wife (luckily the film doesn’t go down the terrible trope of showing the wife having an affair), while his young sister is just experiencing the first adolescent pangs of love and lust with an older boy.
Really, this is a film about outside interference. Heli just wants a stable family with an easy life – obviously things could be better, but in a town like his the tendency is that things could be much much worse. When her sister’s boyfriend makes the mistake of stealing some local gangster’s drug stash, all hell breaks loose for Heli. The second half of the film is Heli’s heroic struggle for survival, his refusal to have his own morals and hopes compromised by thugs or police, and his desire beyond his control to have things back to the way the were. In this section of the film we get a number of fairly violent and dark scenes which contrast in a startling way to the more mundane first portion. That isn’t to say the first half is boring, rather it contains many more lighthearted moments, and takes the time to let us learn and care about each character before tearing it all down. The scenes of violence are handled very well, feeling much more real and alarming than the torture porn cousins it resembles.
The making of documentary gives interesting insight into a director I didn’t know, showing the casting process of mostly first time actors who have basically no experience in the business and instead more closely resemble their characters. It’s interesting to watch their thoughts on the film-making process as they go through it for the first time. The director is clearly a skilled storyteller with a strong handling of character and a good eye for a nerve-jangling moment or memorable shot, and the actors are all very convincing in their roles. I’d recommend this to anyone looking to branch out into foreign or Mexican film, to fans of films like Amores Perros, and to fans of good movies in general.
Have you seen or heard about Heli? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Great review 🙂 I have not seen this yet, but it looks interesting 🙂 Consiering that you live in the UK, have you ever watched Moviedrome when it was on in the 90’s? I do not live in the UK, but I have seen old youtube videos of the introductions. From 1988-1994, the films were introduced by Alex Cox (director of Repo Man and Sid and Nancy) and when it was rebooted, Mark Cousins from 1997-2000. Youtube one of them because they have really interesting things to say. I bring this up because a lot of the films you talk about here (and I love them too) remind me of the type of films Moviedrome shows. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂
I was aware of it when it was on (especially the later version as I would have been a little young when Cox was doing it), but I don’t recall ever watching it. I know it was on BBC2, so I probably would have set up the VHS to record some of the movies between 97-2000, before you could get your hands on them by streaming of DVD. Channel 4 and later Film 4 in the UK had some similar shows with little introductions to a Premiere or a cult/foreign movie, usually by Mark Kermode. Film 4 currently does similar introductions and they get people like Woody Allen, Ridley Scott, Scorcese etc to introduce these films which is pretty cool. Not very long, but still some insight. Mark Kermode is probably my favourite critic, or a least the first one I paid attention to. He used to be on a BBC radio show that I listened to in the mid 90s, once or twice a week he’d come in and talk to the presenters about a favourite cult film and they’d play audio clips of it – was very cool as I learned a lot of new films as a young teen. Search for Mark Kermode on youtube too, he still does radio reviews and his own vlog etc, some of his rants about bad movies are funny.