Abel (15)

Starring: Christopher Ruíz-Esparza, Karina Gidi
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The Independent Culture

Diego Luna's directorial debut is an eccentric and somewhat disturbing comedy of delusion. At its heart is a superb performance by Christopher Ruíz Esparza as a nine-year-old Mexican boy, Abel, whose refusal to speak has left him confined in a mental health facility.

His mother Cecilia (Karina Gidi) persuades his doctor to release Abel for a week, whereupon the boy not only starts talking but becomes a sort of father figure to his 16-year-old sister and five-year-old brother. It soon emerges that he thinks he is the father, and that his beloved mother is his wife, a misapprehension the family decides to play along with. When the actual father, a bolter named Anselmo (Jose Maria Yazpik) shows up, Cecilia maintains the illusion by telling Abel that Anselmo is her cousin.

The film is occasionally very funny in its portrait of deluded responsibility, and rather moving on the subject of mother love: it is a piercing irony that a broken family makes itself whole again through a nine-year-old's impersonation of a patriarch. Luna and his screenwriter Augusto Mendoza invest real tenderness in their characterisation of a boy who seems, despite all, so much wiser than the adults who believe him to be unstable.