Gente De Bien – Movie Review by Eveleen Coyle
Director: Franco Lolli
Writers: Virginie Legeay, Franco Lolli,
Stars: Brayan Santamarià, Carlos Fernando Perez, Alejandra Borrero |
Gente de Bien is about abandonment, love, betrayal, class differences, poverty and wealth in Colombian society today. Seen through the eyes of a child with all a child’s optimism, hope and energy, it highlights that huge chasm between rich and poor.
When 10 year old Eric’s mother leaves with her partner and younger child, she decides Eric should live with his rather hopeless father Gabriel (Perez). She takes him on the bus, they meet Gabriel (who is late) on a cold wet street where she hands him over with his pitiful belongings and his beloved dog Lupe. She leaves without a backward glance.
Gabriel struggles to survive in a gruesome slum in Bogota. He tries to connect with his son but doesn’t know where to begin. Marija (Borrero), a university lecturer for whom Gabriel does occasional work, tries to help by giving Gabriel work and encouraging her children to befriend Eric. As Christmas approaches, she continues her kindness by asking them to join her extended family on their expensive property where Gabriel will do running repairs and Eric play with the children. Gabriel overcomes his pride to accept the invitation which he quietly sees as charity.
But her kindness backfires. Uncomfortable in these surroundings, Gabriel decides to leave and Marija persuades him to allow Eric stay on. This too backfires when the children turn on Eric, and he demands to go back to Bogota.
Brayan Santamarià is perfect as the little boy who wants to be just that, a little boy but slowly recognises there is no childhood or justice for him. He is the undisputed star of Gente de Bien.
There are two outstanding scenes, the one where Eric is riding on a horse with Marija through a Christmas Fair all set to music is sheer magic. Having to put down Lupe the dog is tragic.
Perhaps Colombian born Franco Lolli was attempting to address too many issues in his first feature film, or perhaps he was just keeping it too low-key. It is sensitively shot, but way, way too long.