NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Director Claudia Sainte-Luce’s Love & Mathematics (Amor y Matemáticas) presents a slice of life from the suburbs of Monterrey, Mexico. Former boy-band pop star Billy (Roberto Quijano) is now in his 30s, living a quiet life with his wife Lucia (Daniela Salinas) and their infant child. Billy is uneasy with domestic life, seemingly ill-suited to 9 to 5 jobs and barbecues with neighbors on the patio. He walks through his days dead-eyed and speaks in a near-whisper.
Lucia works while Billy chases entrepreneurial pipe dreams with his brother, Daniel (Marco Alfonso Polo Guerra). Because he’s at home during the week, he is charged with child care and asked to look after Lucia’s beloved puppy, Lucas. One night while out walking Lucas, Billy’s ennui turns to rage, and he takes the dog’s leash off, allowing him to run away. Lucia is inconsolable, desperately diving into looking for Lucas. She prints and posts signs and scours the neighborhood, all to no avail.
While the drama with the pet dog plays out, Love & Mathematics introduces Billy’s new neighbor across the way, Monica (Diana Bovio). Monica’s revealed to have been a rabid fan of Billy’s band when she was a teen and shows him a scrapbook she kept, making it clear she’s still smitten with him. Billy is pulling out of the driveway one morning and accidentally runs over Lucas, who has found his way home and was sleeping under the car. Monica helps Billy clean up the dog’s body, and they agree to keep the secret, allowing Lucia to believe he is still just lost.
“Billy toys with Monica and crushes Lucia by killing her beloved dog…”
Monica’s adoration reminds Billy of what his life used to be as a performer, with fans feeding his ego. It also reminds him of his passion for music, and he begins to play his guitar again. This bittersweet trip down memory lane causes his dissatisfaction with life to come to an inflection point, and he begins to consider ways to break the ties that bind him to his dull life. As Billy wiggles on the hook of adult life, he spreads destruction like an earthquake. Billy toys with Monica and crushes Lucia by killing her beloved dog and letting her believe he’s still alive.
The marketing for Love & Mathematics casts it as a dramatic comedy. Still, American audiences will have a tough time finding anything funny about a man-child refusing to come to terms with adulthood. However, there is real humor in situations where Billy is humiliated about his faded fame, mostly by female fans. In one case, he squirms when a woman insists he sings one of the old songs in the grocery store while he’s out shopping with the baby.
Mexican films have a history of bad treatment of pets. For example, Amores Perros features dog fights and the death of a pet. Screenwriter Adriana Pelusi seems to be poking fun at Lucia’s devotion to her pet dog. Latinx cultures tend not to value pets the same way Americans do, and Lucia’s love for Lucas is portrayed as something pretentious and goofy. This is also a miss with U.S. audiences, as pets are regarded very differently here.
Sainte-Luce’s production is immaculate. The drama is delivered skillfully from solid performances, and the cinematic beauty of Monterrey is undeniable. As such, Love & Mathematics works well as a family drama, pulling a sense of dread from the viewer as we wait to see what ridiculous behavior Billy’s overblown sense of self-importance propels him to next.
"…the cinematic beauty of Monterrey is undeniable."