Director: Maximilian Schönfeld | Screenplay: Almada Forest in Maximaliano Schonfeld | Cast: Lucas Schnell (Jésus), Joaquín Spahn (Abel), Sofía Palomino (Azul), ea | Time to play: 86 minutes | Year: 2021
A fatal collision leaves its mark on a rural Argentine community. The fatal victim is Jésus López, a racing driver with a highly flammable character. His looks and legacy are hard to shake. In this symbolic and atmospheric story, Jésus slowly takes possession of his nephew Abel, who finally takes a determined place in his late ancestor’s race car. The name of the car: Jésus López.
Like a blazing sun, Jesus runs along a deserted country road in the opening scene. The glow of the fire around his silhouette is caused by a pair of headlights flickering past him, his real face largely obscured by night shadow. This is the last time we see him alive, it turns out soon after, and yet the appearance of him will still return.
One of those present at Jésus’ funeral is his cousin Abel, a shy teenager who doesn’t really belong anywhere. That changes after the racing driver dies. Welcomed by his parents, Abel joins Jesús’s pregnant sister and falls in love with Azul, a regular at the races and Jesús’s ex-girlfriend. “You’re not like Jesus,” Azul tells Abel. However, she is becoming more and more like him.
Much remains to be clarified about the dramatic death that has gripped the community, but jesus lopez it deals only in a limited way with the perpetrator and the call for retaliation. Abel’s obsession with Jésus also seems to be a deep mourning process. Just like in the previous movie of him. The Black Frost director Maximiliano Schonfeld is more interested in symbolism and religious references with which he can take events and his characters to an extra level of meaning.
The risk of this approach is that the drama of Jesus’ death and Abel’s gradual transformation (actually representing his personal development into manhood) is overshadowed by predominantly ostentatious symbolism. For example, when other drivers discover a scarecrow as a tribute to his deceased friend of his and Abel is wearing an iconic Led Zeppelin band t-shirt (with a winged Icarus on it).
Thus it is no coincidence that Schonfeld plays with the reincarnation of a man named Jésus, who according to art tradition has long hair. He too can think of the name ‘Abel’ more, as long as he is somewhat familiar with the Bible and feels the need to interpret the movie in this way.
The choice of a symbolic narrative is not entirely unfortunate. The magical realism that encompasses Abel’s transformation gives interactions with Azul a particularly extra dynamism. And the mystery surrounding the reappearance of Jesus provides that bit of suspense that might have been missing from a conventional coming-of-age drama. The escalating sound design makes that tension palpable and propels the film towards its inevitable climax. Abel will do everything possible to win his first and last car race at Jésus López. Even if he has to leave his old self behind.