A coming-of-age saga of quiet contemplation, Mosquita y Mari focuses on the growing bond between Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda), a high school honor student in Huntington Park, L.A., and Mari (Venecia Troncoso), a financially strapped bad girl who moves in across the street. Opening with Yolanda dutifully participating in a formal familial portrait with her mother and father, Aurora Guerrero's film concentrates on the internal tug-of-war Yolanda feels between fulfilling the college dreams of her strict working-class parents and her budding feelings for Mari, whom she offers to tutor and—amid hanging out in abandoned auto shops and on street corners where Mari earns extra cash passing out store flyers—for whom she develops not-so-subtle romantic inclinations. Despite occasional lapses into showy expressionistic slo-mo, Guerrero's direction demonstrates a patience and attention to emotional detail that allows the two young leads' performances to develop naturally. And at least for its first two-thirds, her story captures a compelling sense of milieu and of unexpected—and, to some extent, unwanted—events unfolding spontaneously. Alas, the film's off-the-cuff atmosphere is eventually overwhelmed by a few too many look-at-me flourishes and some late narrative contrivances, culminating with a final note that strives for tentative hopefulness but comes off as simply noncommittal.
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