Here and There

Here and There ★★½

The single most exciting, original shot in the entire film comes when Esparza's camera pivots directly down to follow hands reaching to a suitcase placed just at the edge of the tripod's downward mobility. Genuine suspense: will the hands go beyond the frame or stop just in the nick of time? Otherwise, Esparza has a good eye for generic master-shot cinema: heavily Kiarostami inflected (winding roads/hills), long shots of not particularly responsive or expressive people in aimless conversation (only wide shots and close-ups, never medium), and so scared of alienating on-the-fence audiences or politically-indifferent festival viewers by preaching or polemicizing it turns tepid and inert. (To be fair, the hillside long shots can be lovely, and the sound — drifting megaphone voices, far-off children's choir, snatches of radio — is terrific.) Briefly sharpens its tempo in the extended mother's hospitalization sequence — a sudden, nightmarish, impoverishing plunge into sleeping on the streets while trying to round up eight (!) blood donors in 12 hours — but otherwise affectless. Should've ended with the strong, bitter shot of the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance, but no: we have to have the two girls saying the obvious out loud for emotional impact. "Do you miss dad?" Oh, I don't know, what do you think the answer'll be? Esparza's a talent, but I'm getting a bit tired of this nice, polite master-shot avoidance of potentially painful moments made for the sole purpose of artistically defusing loaded social topics. A bit more of this and I'll demand that Kim Ki-Duk be put in charge of directing everything just to put an end to this.