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Armat Escalante won Best Director in Cannes for this tense, relentless tale of an ordinary family’s unwitting descent into Mexico’s brutal drug wars.


  • Director Amat Escalante
  • Producer Jaime Romandia
  • Screenwriters Amat Escalante, Gabriel Reyes
  • With Armando Espitia, Linda González, Juan Eduardo Palacios, Andrea Vergara
  • Mexico-Germany-Netherlands-France 2013
  • 105 mins
  • UK distribution Network Releasing

Amat Escalante’s frighteningly credible third feature – which won him Best Director prize in Cannes – tells of a poor, hard-working Mexican family devastated by drug crime and institutional corruption. Car factory worker Heli lives with his wife and baby, dad and 12-year-old sister, who foolishly allows her police cadet boyfriend to use the roof of their modest home to hide a stash of drugs he’s stolen. Cue a swift descent into an unimaginably nightmarish series of violent events. Though certain scenes – most memorably an extended, unflinchingly graphic episode of callous torture – may suggest a desire to shock, Escalante’s direction is notable for its cool, measured pacing, precise compositional sense and perceptive attention to detail. Well played by a mostly non-professional cast, this almost oppressively tense film succeeds both in highlighting the dangers of Mexico’s more lawless regions and in evoking the strength of feeling family members can have for one another.

Geoff Andrew

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Read the Time Out review.

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