film review: El Crimen Del Padre Amaro ***

This is a film about the relationship between clerics and the public. It is being released at a time when obscenity surrounds the Catholic Church and the notion of war is still described by certain political sects as “the Lord’s way”.

Is it time to construct a new religious mindset via revolution, or should the current system be restored and patched up by investing more money and faith? Where is the right justification? Does it stem from humanity’s quest for spirituality, or is it corrupt and political? In El Crimen Del Padre Amaro, it is both – and it affects both worlds equally and equivocally. It forces a viewer to question the universal meaning of religion as a whole. Is it beneficially wholesome or blindingly superfluous?

For Father Amaro (Gael Garcia Bernal) this is an internal conflict that rips his life apart like a demon in a bad horror flick. The devout young man realizes he must go against himself and his religion to decide if fulfilling his romantic desire, Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancon), is worth the sacrifice. Throughout his travails, one sees how the father disdains deep contradictions within the church and how humans have corrupted it through illegal ties and political money-laundering schemes.

Father Amaro despises this mendacity until he reaches a similar crossroad of idealism-from here on, his decisions will haunt him for eternity. The father’s crime is not solely against his religion, but against his soul and those who love him. People often contemplate the one thing they would change in their past if the opportunity arose. After viewing Father Amaro’s outcome in this film (incredible) it is harder to guess what he would choose.

Cinematically, this film is comparable to a Spanish Godfather, with style that effectively shows the needy and the affluent colliding. Even those with great power are in need of acceptance and assurance, possibly more than the “commoner.” These people realize, like Father Natalio, who is excommunicated, that organized religion and spirituality can be separated. Amelia is able to recognize the difference between love that is physically primal and love infused with genuine feeling. Father Amaro finally lets go of religious traditions practiced for the sake of pleasing everyone. These are issues that people, Catholic or not, have been wrestling with for centuries. The presence of greed may never permit finality, but films of this caliber offer valuable (and provocatively entertaining) insight.

Josh Caraballo can be reached at