This moody biopic deserves attention, both for its award-worthy central performance by García Bernal and for its sensitive handling of a unique cultural tradition. García Bernal plays Cassandro with a subtlety and sincerity that contrasts poignantly with the theatrics of his "exótico" character in the wrestling ring.
His touching devotion to his mother, his impossible love for a married man, his father's rejection, and his disparaged sexuality in a "macho" culture are all scripted, directed, and acted with great delicacy.
The film tries to cover perhaps too much time, shrinking Cassandro's successful rise into montages, which short-shrift the uniqueness of his popularity. You walk away with more a feeling than an understanding (for that, a 2018 documentary on the celebrity can fill in the blanks).
Viewers may be drawn to the film because of singer Bad Bunny's small role, but he's on-screen very little. The more memorable secondary characters are played by de la Rosa as his depressed mother and especially Castillo as his repressed lover.
But the camera stays almost exclusively on García Bernal, who goes back and forth between a modest son still living with his mother and an increasingly confident and flamboyant stage persona.
The intentionally dark lighting and melancholy instrumental theme suggest a darkness perhaps symbolic of the aspects of Saúl's life that must stay hidden or obscured.
This works to underscore how different he feels (and is treated) as Cassandro, who swaggers to the ring accompanied by borderland-inspired disco tunes, and works the crowd for laughs with clownish choreography, stage make-up, and costumes -- all of which the production spectacularly recreates.
Read the full review on Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime.