Movie Review: Plaza Catedral

Luxury real estate agent Alicia (Ilse Salas) is grieving the death of her young son after a tragic accident. She goes about her days in a haze, pretending to be okay but just barely keeping herself together and sometimes sneaking into her ex-husband’s house to lay in her son’s old bed. Outside her apartment, a boy going by the name Chief (Fernando Xavier De Casta) tries to charge drivers $3 to keep an eye on their parked cars, but Alicia refuses to play along. One night she enters her building to discover a trail of blood leading up the stairs to her door to a barely-conscious Chief suffering from a gunshot wound. She rushes him to the hospital, takes him into the ER, and walks back out into the night.

The next day he leaves the hospital for fear of arrest and returns to her doorstep, begging to be let inside. To her own surprise, Alicia lets him in and starts to look after him, tending to his wound and setting up an inflatable bed. Having someone to care for helps her to start emerging from the fog of grief and the two begin to develop a close connection as they learn about the hardships that they each face in their daily lives. When she returns home one day, beginning to feel like she might be capable of feeling happiness again, she finds Chief missing and sets out to try and find him before something bad can happen.

Salas and De Casta give heartbreakingly real performances, each expressing remarkably deep wells of inner pain in their faces. The script by director Abner Benaim adroitly juggles the parallel themes of the toll grief can take on a person and the suffering that growing wealth inequality inflicts on Panama City’s poorer residents. There are countless children like Chief in the city who live in terrible conditions and often find themselves the victims of violence at the hands of the city’s gangs. This is a moving and beautiful film, that calls for us all to care more for each other and shows how healing human connection can be, though it takes a darker turn in the last 30 minutes and ends with an emotional gut punch. A tragic real-life event that followed the completion of the film is mentioned in a title card after the final scene that further highlights just how terrible the problems facing the city’s poor really are and makes the movie all the more powerfully devastating. ★★★★★

not rated. contains violence, nudity, sexual content, language, and smoking.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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