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PLAZA CATHEDRAL (2021, PAN) – 7/10

Alicia (Ilse Salas) is a 42-year-old Mexican woman who lives in the capital of Panama, and although she is an architect by profession, she works as a real estate agent. I’m dead inside, she points out on one occasion, and that’s not surprising because her six-year-old only son tragically died a year and a half earlier, and Alicia’s life fell apart after that. She soon broke up with her rich husband and moved to an apartment located in a building on the square near the cathedral (hence the name of the movie Plaza Catedral). And she lives alone, or rather, she tries to continue living consumed by pain, sadness, meaninglessness, but also guilt, since she considers herself responsible for the death of the little one.

One day, on her way home, she will be met by a 13-year-old street kid who will offer her a safe place in the parking lot and the protection of her Jeep, and Alicia will never be able to get rid of the annoying little guy. But soon the boy will appear at her door shot dead, and she will initially reluctantly offer him refuge and protection, but over time the boy will begin to get under her skin. Don’t worry, “Plaza Catedral” is not one of those sentimental dramas in which two unhappy and traumatized people will find a kind of refuge and salvation in each other, but Abner Benaim’s film will develop into a rather dark combination of drama and thriller.

The whole story is even darker and more tragic when we know that a boy named Fernando Xavier de Casta who played the role of a 13-year-old was actually shot and killed on the street of Panama City just a few months after the end of filming. “Plaza Catedral” was Abner Benaim’s third film who Panama pointed out as its candidate for the Oscar, but the first feature film, and the fact that this director comes from the world of documentaries is very much felt here. Everything here seems extremely realistic, real, and it contrasts brilliantly the scenes of those huge, vast, modern skyscrapers from which Alicia tries to sell apartments to some happy families with the misery and poverty of people who live just a block or two away. The Mexican actress Ilse Salas is also excellent, whom I remember well from the equally good “Las ninas bien”, and the whole story is even more poignant and terrifying when we know the fate of the boy who played the role of a little unfortunate from the street.