Aquí y Allá


You’ll witness no border-crossing histrionics in writer-director Antonio Méndez Esparza’s first feature, which translates as “Here and There”; the film is as simple, straightforward, and elegant as its title. Featuring a cast of nonprofessionals—many playing versions of themselves and all naturals in front of the camera—Aquí y Allá patiently tracks Pedro (Pedro de los Santos), reuniting with his wife and two daughters in a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, after his second long stretch working in New York. The effects of his absence emerge with subtle force: Lying in bed with Pedro, his spouse, expecting their third child, confesses her fears that he was unfaithful (“I felt that you had someone there”); his older daughter is sullen and recalcitrant. Although these fissures never quite disappear, much of the film is devoted to the family’s reestablishing its closeness in organic moments usually involving Pedro (an aspiring musician) singing a corrido as his clan ribs him. Fully immersing us in the present—in the here and now—Méndez Esparza unobtrusively reminds us of the past and the future tied up with there. When a high school dropout, now living with his aunt because his parents went north, seeks Pedro’s advice about crossing over, the ravages of an endless, disruptive cycle are made clear—not through grandstanding but detailed, intimate episodes. Melissa Anderson