The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and the sins of the sons are visited on their siblings in the dour “Bedtime Fairy Tales for Crocodiles.” Some stark and startling visual imagery is dissipated by the complex nature of this pan-generational tale, suggesting pic — which won seven Ariel awards including best film, director, actor (Arturo Rios), original screenplay, music, sound and editing — would fit well at fests that appreciate such gravity but will have a much tougher time snapping up any theatrical dates outside Spanish-speaking territories.
Suffering from insomnia and unable to hide his increasing malaise from his exasperated wife Teresa (Ana Graham), chainsmoking Gabriel Archangel Juarez (Rios) uses the opportunity of a phone message from his long-estranged brother to take his videogame-distracted son to remote Oaxaca to visit the father he hasn’t seen in nearly two decades. Only problem is, once at his windswept childhood home, a neighbor tells him Dad and his sibling have been dead for about 15 years.
Gabriel’s resulting puzzlement triggers a series of flashbacks recounted by the neighbor that reveal his family tree as a “cursed breed” endlessly repeating acts of deceit, betrayal and murder. Each previous generation’s tale of woe has played out against ongoing Mexican historical upheavals, and not even the ministrations of his angry yet long-suffering mate can break the chain of historical misfortune.
Helmer Ignacio Ortiz Cruz moved from medicine to screenwriting in the early 1990s. With its use of profiles, light and shadow, the functional visual style of “Fairy Tales” recalls the look of Woody Allen’s first important dramatic feature “Interiors,” which Cruz just finished adapting for the stage. And in much the same way Allen’s pic is well-respected internationally but has far more cultural resonance to Americans, so too Cruz’s work has a certain insularity that prevents much empathy for Archangel — and thus the story itself.
Tech credits are fine, with such jarring images as a rope-bound coyote and a bloodied green apple sporadically lifting pic out of dramatic doldrums. Odd moniker is never really explained.