Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category, "The Crime of Padre Amaro" is a melodrama that stars Gael García Bernal ("Y Tu Mamá También," "Amores Perros"). Now you can watch this movie on DVD either dubbed into English or in the original Spanish. Of course, English subtitles are provided, and for viewers who want to work on their Spanish, subtitles in that language are available. Also, the DVD has a few bonus materials, and I have listed these below.
"The Crime of Padre Amaro" centers around corruption in a Roman Catholic diocese in provincial Mexico. Some critics have dismissed the film as nothing more than soap opera, but to my way of thinking, the movie presents a cynical view of human nature that ultimately makes it close in spirit to film noir. I see the movie as being a larger-than-life fable about a young man who professes to be idealistic, but when confronted with real-world choices, puts preserving his lifestyle above doing the right thing.
The film's protagonist is Father Amaro (Gael García Bernal), who is newly ordained. The young priest is obviously a favorite of the bishop's, and a conversation among five of the diocese's priests implies that Father Amaro is the bishop's illegitimate son. Whatever his reasons, the bishop wants to groom Father Amaro to run the diocese and begins the process by sending the inexperienced young man to the Los Reyes parish for a few weeks of seasoning.
At Los Reyes, Father Amaro soon learns that the parish priest, Father Benito, has had a sexual relationship with a woman for many years. But the young priest doesn't find this particularly troubling—he doesn't believe celibacy should be required of priests anyway.
However, Father Amaro does find it troubling that Father Benito is building a hospital with cash donations received from a drug lord, even though the parish priest claims, "It is bad money that turns good." Also, Father Amaro doesn't quite know what to make of Father Natalio, a priest who works with peasants and is accused of helping guerrillas. But it's not long before a crisis arises when a newspaper runs a story headlined "CHURCH LINKED TO DRUGS AND GUERRILLA," and the bishop assigns Father Amaro the task of limiting the damage to the diocese.
While grappling with his job-related problems, Father Amaro becomes romantically involved with a sexy 16-year-old girl named Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón). He woos her by quoting, "Thy two breasts are like two young roes," from the "Song of Songs." During one of their trysts, she is wearing only bra and panties when he cloaks her in a blue robe made for a statue of the Virgin. Amelia becomes besotted with Father Amaro and tells him, "Lots of priests hang up their cassocks and marry."
I won't spoil your fun by giving the details of how Father Amaro deals with the issues he faces. However, I will say that his sojourn at Los Reyes has the effect the bishop had hoped for: Father Amaro arrives there a callow young man, but he will leave a battle-hardened veteran. But along the way, he permits his obsession with hanging onto his job to drive him to moral bankruptcy.
Gael García Bernal is charismatic in the title role of "The Crime of Padre Amaro," and I like the film's memorable images and gallery of interesting characters. But the movie sometimes feels like a soap opera, and it is occasionally downright campy. I don't think the film is particularly good as a character study, but I still found it to be a fascinating portrait of a young man's capitulation to corruption.
Special Features of the DVD:
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