Combustible Celluloid
With: Jackson Rathbone, Esai Morales, Alex Meneses, Xander Berkeley, Marisol Sacramento, Carmela Zumbado, Mariel Hemingway
Written by: Zachary Cotler
Directed by: Zachary Cotler, Magdalena Zyzak
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 95
Date: 09/18/2020

The Wall of Mexico (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Engulf of Mexico

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The strange political allegory The Wall of Mexico comes off as a little heavy-handed and obvious, but the lush, honeyed cinematography balances the mood, and it emerges as an interesting, somewhat timely curiosity.

Don Taylor (Jackson Rathbone) lands a job as a handyman for a wealthy Mexican-American family, led by Henry (Esai Morales) and Monica Arista (Alex Meneses). Working under the veteran Michael (Xander Berkeley), he becomes enthralled by the family's two beautiful daughters, Tania (Marisol Sacramento) and Ximena (Carmela Zumbado), who are very intelligent, but also bored, spending hours tanning and then partying.

He manages to get himself invited to one party and finds himself seduced by Tania. At the same time, thieves have been stealing the family's precious well water, and the Aristas order Don to watch the well at night. The thieves return, and Henry orders a wall built around the well as Don finds himself too deeply involved.

The Wall of Mexico is pretty clearly the reverse of the concept of the United States building a wall along the Mexican border, to keep the "have nots" away from the "haves." The movie seems to have a hard time staying focused, though. Whenever Don goes into town for supplies he seems to encounter racist remarks about the Mexican-American family, which may also be mixed up with jealousy toward their wealth. And Mariel Hemingway shows up as the mayor to protest the Aristas' actions, but these moments don't really provide an interesting counterpoint to the allegory.

The story about the daughters also seems to go nowhere, simply providing a few moments of debauchery here and there. However, there are things that made The Wall of Mexico worth a look. The clever cinematography by Lyn Moncrief does wonders to help tie things together, creating a dreamy look and feel, as if all that champagne the daughters drink were affecting the movie itself.

It's also refreshing to see so many Latinx actors cast in roles that are the opposite of what they might typically get, and they all seem to be thoroughly enjoying the opportunity. Best of all is Morales, a great actor who made his mark in La Bamba and deserved a much more high-profile career.

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