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I know it's called a backpack...but I like to wear mine on the front...so...I guess it's a frontpack...mine's a frontpack...

This movie is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

R

Edgar Flores, Paulina Gaitan, Kristian Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta, Luis Fernando Peña, Diana Garcia

Sayra: Aren’t you afraid?
Willy: To be killed?  No…I live by the day.  The only hard part is not knowing when or where…

Willy (Flores), aka El Casper, must go on the run after killing one of the leaders of the gang he is a part of as revenge for the death of his girlfriend.  On the train to the border, he meets Sayra (Gaitan) and her family who are also headed to a hopefully better life in the United States.  The question is, can Willy get there before members of his former gang hunt him down.

This is a grim, bleak, dark, sad, but oddly, sort of beautiful look at the harsh lives of some Central Americans who dream of breaking free of their current situations.  The movie begins with the recruitment of El Smiley, who is no more than 10 or 11, into Willy’s gang.  First he’s punched and kicked for 13 seconds, then he has to kill a member of a rival gang.

We also see Sayra being somewhat reluctantly reunited with her father that she hasn’t seen in years.  The promise of a better live in the U.S. convinces her to go, but she’s in for more than she bargained for along the way.

I referred to it as oddly beautiful because a) the cinematography is often lovely, and b) it manages to evoke such conflicting feelings of hopefulness and hopelessness simultaneously.  You get a sense of the awful things people will go through if there’s a chance at a better life.  Plus, you see how quickly it can all come to and end when somebody trips and falls between the cars of a moving train.

Willy doesn’t say too much in this movie, but Flores – in what is apparently only his second movie – does a good job of getting a lot across on screen.  You get the sense that his involvement in the gang’s activities were out of necessity and not because he’s a killer at heart.  So, you can root for him.  It also helps that you can easily root for Sayra, and she sees the good in Willy after he saved her life.

Despite a couple of scenes that seemed a little too contrived, I liked this one a lot.  I’m not sure it’s something I’d watch often because, as I mentioned, it’s pretty grim, but it’s certainly worth seeing.

When sleeping on top of a train, always tie yourself to something…so, ya know…you don’t roll off accidentally.

10 – 1.1 for a couple somewhat contrived, plot-convenient scenes – .5 for a few other storytelling oddities where I was a little confused as to who was who and who was where exactly = 8.4