The Crime of Father Amaro might not be about what you’d expect from its title, if you’ve been a follower of the Catholic Church’s recent trials. This film bears no witness to the loves or lusts that for decades have gone unnamed, which now compound into a double-barreled phrase that has blown up in the church’s pious face, and may be heard in courtrooms and newsrooms around the country: namely, homosexual pedophilia.
Though Rubén (Andrés Montiel), an ambitious young Mexican newspaper reporter, calls ambitious young Mexican priest Fr. Amaro (Gael García Bernal, Y tu mamá también) a “faggot,” the slur is ironically provoked. Amaro — acting as loyal attack dog for his boss, the bishop — has coerced Rubén’s newspaper to print a press release that undermines Rubén’s investigative report uncovering dealings and sympathies between Amaro’s colleagues and narcotics and guerrilla operations. This issue aside, Rubén also knows that Amaro has caught the eye of Rubén’s fanatically religious girlfriend, Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón). Don Paco (Lorenzo de Rodas), Rubén’s atheist father (known in their town as “the heretic”), has a slur for her type: “wafer-eater.”
Amelia is both virgin and overripe Latina Lolita. She is called a “child,” though she appears to be just over the age of consent. Rubén’s story outrages the moral majority of his town’s true believers. The church’s holy rebuttal catalyzes them to the point of literally throwing the first stone at Don Paco. This censure allows Amelia to break from Rubén and religiously tempt Fr. Amaro, the closest she believes she may come to the man of her sensual prayers, Jesus Christ.
This and other ironies are the cinematic blood of this film. But director Carlos Carrera seems blind to the supreme irony: The Crime of Father Amaro slings stones at the sin and crime-stained glass windows of the Catholic Church much like the unsympathetically portrayed mob does at a cranky but lovable atheist. The true crime of Father Amaro is that it seems to pride itself on indicting an ancient institution that has all but confessed its guilt, rather than further illuminating its fable’s more novel meditations on the estrangement between faith and daily life.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].