Abel - Cinema Review

'this intimate drama is effective, well executed and touching'

At the beginning of actor Diego Luna's directorial debut Abel - as we focus in and out of a young boy playing with a snail on a tomato plant as abstract music floats around in the background - you could be forgiven for thinking that Luna's film is going to be one of those indie efforts that's all looks and no plot, more concerned with wishy-washy aesthetics and a lengthy runtime than building characters and a compelling narrative.

In actuality, Luna's film is nothing of the sort. Abel (played brilliantly by youngster Christopher Ruíz-Esparza and pronounced 'Ah-bell') is a young boy trying to cope with the pressures of a difficult home life in an extraordinary way. Like Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth, Abel retreats into a world which makes sense to him because he has largely created it. That isn't to say that Abel is a fantasy like Guillermo del Toro's film. Luna's is much more of a social drama exploring the constructs of the Mexican family from Abel's unique point of view.

Whilst the wider-ranging aims of the film aren't necessarily all that successful (Abel's family is the only one we see making it a little narrow in it's message about 'the family'), the intimate drama is effective, well executed and touching. Luna doesn't waste time either. At just eighty-five minutes (shorter, if you're watching the cut not produced for the Sundance Film Festival) the pace is brisk enough to tell the story but brief enough to hold your attention during some of the more stagnant moments. It's a remarkably brave move from a first time director to cut his pride a joy down to this small a runtime but the fact that Luna recognises that points (or in this case, minutes) don't win prizes is one of the clearest hints here that he's got a bright future as a director.

Little moments of visual innovation also hint at Luna's skill behind the camera. Two TVs are used in Abel's household because one only plays sound and the other only plays picture. It seems to be a metaphor for how Abel's mind works; put all the ideas together and you have a clear picture but separate them out and the message is confused, almost lost.

Alongside Ruiz-Esparza, his younger brother Gerardo is equally as charming as Abel's brother Paúl, whilst the triumvirate of siblings is rounded out strongly by Geraldine Alejandra who gives a performance which hints that she might one day rise to a similar level as Luna has. The strong cast is perhaps let down marginally by José María Yazpik who plays slightly too much to stereotype but even this is hardly noticeable in a confident, charming and involving debut which sets anticipation levels high for Luna's next piece of work.

Abel is playing in selected cinemas from 7th January.

Look further...

'it is wonderful to see a young actor whose work in front of the camera is so likable to step behind the camera and make such an honest, personal film that is technically sound' - Film School Rejects


  1. Hmm, I had not heard of this film prior to visiting the site this morning. I'm intrigued.

  2. It's well worth a watch if you can find it somewhere Edgar. Very quiet and involving.