Iranian-born helmer based in Paris, Rafi Pitts (It’s Winter, The Hunter), couldn’t have chosen a more scalding topic for his new drama, Soy Nero, than the Mexico-US immigration entanglement. The story was co-written with the Romanian Razvan Radulescu, the creative mind behind movies such as The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Child’s Pose, and sought inspiration in the recently debated DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act.
Every day, several young Mexicans attempt to jump the fence, searching for a better life. This is the case of 17-year-old Nero Maldonado (Johnny Ortiz), who grew up in San Fernando and has spent most of his life in South Central, Los Angeles, before being nabbed and deported to Mexico, his country of origin.
Despite this setback, the tenacious Nero is not the kind of guy who gives up easily. Thus, he fearlessly engenders the best way to cross the border again, waiting patiently for the perfect hour of the night to do it. His intentions are clear and simple: find his older brother Jesus (Ian Casselberry), who can provide him shelter, and then enlist in the US army, the unique option that will grant him the very much sought after Green card.
“…paints a dark scenario with biting disenchantment.”
Jumping the fence was not a simple task or devoid of nervousness, but didn’t require too much effort either, a depiction that can reinforce the deranged idea of building a costly giant wall at the border to cut out the Mexican influx.
His path crosses with a few weird characters, starting with an armed, unstable guy (Michael Harney) who offers him a ride and whose discourse becomes gradually aggressive regardless the presence of his little daughter in the backseat. The atmosphere promises a lot but slowly vanishes until Nero finally meets up Jesus in his Beverly Hills mansion. However, the way he gets there is as much ironic as it is contrived. The fraudulent ostentatiousness of Jesus and his girlfriend Mercedes (Rosa Isela Frausto) takes a long time to develop, only to lead us to expected outcomes.
Soon, our young man sees himself in a situation of homelessness. Not for too long, though, since the next shot shows us a dangerous No Man’s Land in the Middle East, where Nero, now holding the identity of his brother, fights not only the enemy, presented in the form of suicide car bombs and rapid ambushes, but also the racial prejudice, incompetence, and stupidity of the American soldiers of his own unit.
“…exposes Uncle Sam’s critical open wounds in a flawed manner.”
Opposing the sharp and vivid frames captured by the lens of Greek cinematographer Christos Karamanis, Pitts paints a dark scenario with biting disenchantment, trying to call the attention in two fronts urgently in need of examination and restructuring. But if the first half deals with a psychological tension that is able to touch and disturb, the overstuffed second half considerably weakens what had been built.
Choppily edited by Danielle Anezin, Soy Nero exposes Uncle Sam’s critical open wounds in a flawed manner while Ortiz’s performance served the film’s purpose without creating too much empathy.
The film was dedicated to all the ‘Green Card’ soldiers who were deported after serving in the US Army.
Soy Nero (2017) Directed by Rafi Pitts. Written by Rafi Pitts and Razvan Radulescu. Starring: Johnny Ortiz, Michael Harney, Ian Casselberry, Rosa Isela Frausto.
5 out of 10