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The Crime of Padre Amaro (2002) – DVD Review

crime of padre amaro dvd cover


Written by: Vicente Leñero, based on the novel by Eça de Queirós
Directed by: Carlos Carrera
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Sancho Gracia, Ana Claudia Talancón, Damián Alcázar


  1. Running audio commentary by director Carrera and actor Bernal (in Spanish with subtitles)
  2. Making-of featurette
  3. Photo gallery
  4. Poster explorations
  5. Theatrical trailer
  6. Cast and crew biographies

Released by: Columbia/Tristar
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Sí

My Advice: Rent It

[ad#longpost]Padre Amaro (Bernal) is a newly minted priest who is destined for great things in the Mexican Catholic Church. He has been sent to the town of Los Reyes to get some real-world experience “in the trenches.” Amaro, like others fresh out of school, is going to get kicked in the balls by “the real world.” Hypocrisy and corruption abound. The head priest, Padre Benito (Gracia), is accepting money from the local narco lord and is carrying on with a woman. However, the money is being used to build a hospital and he truly cares for her and the relationship is in no way exploitative. On the other side is Padre Natalio (Alcázar), a rural priest who is very open of his unsanctioned support of the “guerrillas” fighting the narco lords. He’s willing to risk excommunication to help these people. Of course the peasants’ actions, which he is implicitly endorsing, are just as vicious as the nacro lord’s soldiers. And then there is Amelia (Talancón). Young, sweet, and very sexy, there is an instant attraction between her and Amaro that threatens to overwhelm the two. If they give in to temptation, the consequences, both known and unknown, can be dire. Can Amaro have his love and his faith without destroying both?

It’s a shame that most Hispanic actors are unable to break into the American market. Films like this show the talent of these people and what they’re capable of. Bernal has already demonstrated his talent in Y Tu Mamá También, but here demonstrated more maturity in his acting and allowing his emotions to play under the surface. And Talancón gives off passion effortlessly when she declares her love or screaming at the men who fail her. Everybody involved really does give excellent performances. It’s a shame that most American filmmakers seem limited to casting Latino actors as gang members and domestics. There’s a lot of talent going to waste.

Like most movies that deal with religion, there was significant protest in Mexico about how the Church and its priests were treated in the film. (Of course, this probably helped increase its box office.) These protesters forget that while the Church serves the purity of God, it is made up of men–and they encompass the entire spectrum of morality. Man is fallible, even when serving the divine. But sometimes that service and the power it has can blind men to their fallibility and that’s when bad things happen. Director Carrera raises the questions, but he avoids trying to comment or pass judgment. In several scenes he leaves out any background music so not to force an interpretation on the viewer. Capable of displaying the overpowering majesty of the town church as well as the intimacy of the confessional, Carrera shows a mastery of visual symbolism that many American filmmakers could learn from. Praise also must be given to the writers who took the 19th century Portuguese novel and translated it to 21st century Mexico. They even kept several passages intact from the source material. Most writers are not inclined to think that someone else’s writing doesn’t need polishing up.

Gael García Bernal as Padre Amaro and Ana Claudia Talancón as Amelia in The Crime of Padre Amaro

The commentary between the director and the star of the movie was very informative. They commented on some of the social problems depicted in the movie (drugs, the Church, abortion) and how the furor over the film’s presentation of these would make the rest of the world think Mexico was overly conservative. We learn that Bernal is shy over his love scenes and how he worked to make his Latin Mass as accent-free as possible. Carrera talked about his lighting decisions and all the difficulty of getting funding for his project. It’s nice to hear a good discussion–or should I say read. The commentary was obviously in Spanish with English subtitles. I would have liked the subtitles to be different colors to distinguish between the speakers.

Gael García Bernal as Padre Amaro in The Crime of Padre Amaro

The rest of the extras really don’t measure up. We get some posters, a five-minute commercial in the guise of a making-of featurette, and filmographies of the cast and crew. Nothing to write home about. Still, for those who want to see good thought-provoking cinema made outside the Hollywood system, check out The Crime of Padre Amaro.

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