Another fine example of Latin American naturalism comes from South America, this time Colombia. Feature film debutant Simon Mesa Soto set the action of this almost docu-drama in the troubled Colombian city of Medellin in the 1990s. Although the first association of Colombia’s second largest city is probably everyone’s Pablo Escobar and the cocaine cartels, the title character and her son will find themselves in trouble with the other big Colombian problem of the era, the civil war. Amparo (debutant Sandra Melissa Torres) is a single mother of a teenage son and a younger daughter who does some low-paid manual work.
Her world will collapse when one day the army picks up her barely adult son Elias during a raid and decides to send a bunch of young men who have suffered the same fate to the front line of the war against an unnamed rebel guerilla. Fortunately for Amparo, Colombia is a deeply corrupt country and everything there can be bought with money, but the problem is that she simply does not have the money to buy her son’s freedom. And the next few days for Amparo will turn into a feverish search for the necessary few million pesos, a sum that is beyond her reach.
But this desperate mother is ready to do anything to get her son out of the army because she knows what awaits the unfortunate Elias when he is sent somewhere in the jungle to fight against guerrillas. And Mesa Soto opted for a similar style that we saw in the Oscar-winning “Son of Saul” when the camera is constantly on the main protagonist and follows him in his, this time her, attempts to get money or otherwise get his son out. Everything here seems completely realistic and Torres, who received an award for acting discovery in Cannes, where the film premiered, is great as a woman dragged into a terrifying, cruel and cruel centrifuge of exploitation, cynicism, corruption, crime, corruption and the worst possible form of profiteering.
It’s a brutal and completely merciless world in which we also get an interesting social background of the time when it was apparently completely normal for the army to pick up young men who didn’t finish school and didn’t have any profession. Thus, in the opening scene, while we still don’t even know what’s going on, we see a scared, skinny kid being recruited and then being thrown into a military truck with who knows how many similarly scared peers. One of the next scenes is when Amparo arrives in front of the garrison where there are countless parents like her whose children have been picked up by the army and are trying to pull them out while the officers, non-commissioned officers and various brokers just rub their hands because they are aware that practically all these people are ready for anything in order to get the children out of probable death.