La Civil (2021)

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Based on the real experiences of a woman seeking justice after her daughter is abducted by a Mexican cartel, Teodora Mihai’s first feature is not so much a revenge thriller as a portrait of indomitable strength amidst unimaginable tragedy.

Cielo (Arcelia Ramírez) watches her daughter Laura head off to meet up with her boyfriend and then carries on with her day. Everything changes when a young thug stops her car and matter-of-factly tells her that Laura has been abducted and she must pay a ransom if she wants to see her alive. Cielo entreats her husband Gustavo (Álvaro Guerrero) to help as his cynical, young girlfriend looks on. She tries the police and the military but this is one missing person amongst thousands and no one cares or dares to help.

You feel Cielo’s frustration and the awful powerlessness of a poor woman in drug and machismo-soaked Mexico. It seems that men are the only ones with the agency to do anything but they are all so inextricably caught up in the benefits and pitfalls of the system that they are unable to change it. The only solution seems to be more brutality and Cielo is swept along by a grim persistence, seeing the horrors, implacable evil and the sorrow of so many mothers.

Ramírez is thoroughly convincing as an ordinary woman pushed into a new version of herself. She is no Bryan Mills in Taken (2008) but her dogged determination is no less. It’s not always an easy film to watch but the drama is acute and the chase to find Laura taut and sometimes terrifying. The lack of value for life is devastating and so at odds with the warmth and colour of Mexican culture.

The ending has a lot of heart and reflects, I imagine, a respect for so many heart-broken mothers.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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