The Fathers in Los Reyes, Mexico, are no exception to the rule: underneath the deceptively untroubled surface of this bucolic community seethes a mass of corruption. As revealed by the local newspaper, Father Benito (Sancho Gracia), the aging parish priest, has been fraternizing with drug lords in order to finance a new hospital, and Father Natalio (Damian Alcazar) has been assisting guerilla troops.
Nor is the newly ordained Father Amaro (Gael Garcia Bernal) immune to scandal: In Los Reyes there is dirt on everyone and always a slimy gossipmonger surreptitiously on hand to dig it out or dish it out. On his first day at the church he meets Amelia, a devout yet promiscuous girl who first falls in love with him and then gives herself up, body and soul, for him. Away with celibacy, with chastity, with the Church—or perhaps not.
In a matter of months, Amaro metamorphoses from an ingenuous, generous young priest into one a little older, a little harder, a little more willing to bear the cross of hypocrisy. Amaro quickly quashes his inner turmoil beneath his deadly ambitions and individual political goals: He chooses to replace the delicate cloak of love and naivete with the holy vestments of sanctioned immorality.
It is all too easy for the Church, with the political power that it wields in Los Reyes, to conquer both the village news and Amaro’s personal integrity in one brutal swoop. Its power can deflect responsibility and blame from its own stainless purity, to channel it into those less financially and politically equipped, and to find the innocent guilty. The only person who has any respect for truth and justice is, ironically, a journalist: Amelia’s ex-boyfriend, son of a liberal “heretic,” who exposes the sins of the fathers.
The emotions in The Crime of Father Amaro run the gamut from agony to ecstasy, and often they fluctuate dizzyingly between the two. What happens in between, however, allows us to glimpse a reflection of human nature: The film may be melodramatic, but it exposes the complex monstrosities that are ourselves. According to Father Benito, laundered drug money, once it passes through the hands of the priests, is bad money that turns good. The Crime of Father Amaro, once it passes through the capable hands of director Carlos Carrera, is the bad movie that turns good.
THE CRIME OF FATHER AMARO (EL CRIMEN DEL PADRE AMARO)
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Sancho Garcia, Ana Claudia Talancon
Directed by Carlos Carrera