TIFF Review – Jesus

Set in Santiago, Chile, Jesus is the story of the title character (Nicolás Durán), an 18 year old kid who seems to be drifting through life; hanging out with his friends and occasionally performing in boyband competitions. Jesus’ father Hector (Alejandro Goic) is determined for his son to go to college and stop wasting his life, but when Jesus and his friends make a terrible choice one evening, everything changes.

The second feature film from director Fernando Guzzoni, Jesus is the story of the choices we make to fit in and to stand out. Screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film is dark and complicated, and examines the ideas of relief and grief.

Nicolás Durán leads the cast as the titular Jesus, and makes the character feel rounded and real. Seemingly always at odds with his father, and both filled with ambition and disinterest at the future ahead of him, Durán makes Jesus both disinterested in what the future holds, but devastated when that future is on the verge of being taken away from him. It is a powerful performance from the young actor, and one that anchors the entire film. Alejandro Goic makes Jesus’ father Hector a man bewildered at the young man his son has turned out to be. Raising his son on his own, Hector has not quite struck the right balance between interfering too much and not enough, and this is a constant source of conflict between the two, even though it is obvious that father and son love one another dearly. The rest of the cast features Gastón Saldago, Sebastián Ayala and Esteban González.

The screenplay, written by director Fernando Guzzoni, sees Jesus as the only voice of reason when he and his friends take things too far when they rescue, then turn on, a young man who they find passed out in a Santiago park. The film is rich in contrasts, with Jesus personality changing and fears coming to the fore when the young man is taken to hospital. As well as this, Jesus is a character who dances in boybands then drinks and smokes heavily, while engaging in bisexual one-night stands with friends and strangers. The dialogue of the film feels natural and smart, and many dramatic moments are subtly underplayed in order for them to have a strong emotional impact.

As director, Guzzoni goes to great lengths to ensure that the character of Jesus is the one that the audience know and invest in, and coaxes a strong performances from Durán to underline this. The pacving of the film is slow for the first act, but when brutality comes into play, then the film’s pace, and decisions made, speed up to almost frightening speeds. There are times when the audience suspects the direction that the film will go in, but the closing moments of Jesus change everything, turning the whole film on its head and causing the audience to reevaluate the entire film as they leave the cinema.

In all, Jesus is an interesting film about the relationship between father and son, and the choices we make throughout our lives, and the effect these can have on us, and those around us. Nicolás Durán is strong in the leading role, and although the film meanders, the closing moments are powerful, and change the feel of the entire film.

Rating: 3.5/5

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