Natasha Jaramillo, Giovanny Rodriguez
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…leaves a mark on its audience.
The fact that Jesus is a popular first name in Latin America adds extra spice to the title of this intriguing drama from Columbia. As it turns out, the person to be killed is very far from a perfect man, but more of that anon.
The director Laura Mora Ortega has only made a handful of films, but one can tell that she is passionate about the story she has to tell. The film is clearly about the state of her society and, in particular, the way in which the divide between the rich and the poor is so institutionalised and volatile. It is set in Medellin, the second biggest city in Columbia (which at one time had the reputation for having one of the highest murder rates in South America.) Here, the divided proximity of the haves and the have-nots provides the inciting incident that drives the drama.
We follow the story of typical middle class young woman Paula (Natasha Jaramillo) as she goes about her daily routines. She enjoys her university studies, she likes to hang out with her friends, maybe smoke the odd joint or two after class. Life seems good. She also has a good relationship with her dad who is a lecturer. When a random act of violence explodes into their life, Paula has to re-evaluate everything. Suddenly she must think about the life of those on the other side of the tracks. She starts out in a spirit of vengeance but, later, it becomes a kind of existential journey to understanding. She befriends the eponymous Jesus of the title (Giovanny Rodriguez); a rough young wannabe gangster whose life is so much more troubled than her own. Initially she finds his world incomprehensible and repugnant, but later she comes to see the violence and the brutality in a different light.
The film is quite slow and meandering as it focuses fairly single-mindedly on Paula’s journey. Some of the tension goes out of the film in the last third and there are scenes that look as if they could have been re-shot if there was the budget. Jaramillo, who is in every frame, does not have a great range but she carries the film as best she can. Rodriguez as Jesus also gives an authentic performance such that we can see the emotional reasoning behind her fatal attraction to him. The film is small in scope with a simple story line, but it still had a lingering quality that leaves a mark on its audience.