The terrible unintended consequences of three boys fighting over a girl are told in overly complicated fashion.

The terrible unintended consequences of three boys fighting over a girl are told in overly complicated fashion in writer-director Alejandro Gerber’s debut, “Becloud.” While the central dramatic events generate the focused tension of a short story, the overall film opts for a more novelistic narrative that encompasses three decades and tends to dissipate the full impact. A more distinctive visual approach would have been helpful, but Gerber’s ambition and pic’s solid fest travels should crank up the international profile of both.

The saga begins with a protracted but vividly shot prelude in 1964, in which a trucker and a hooker discover a dead mother’s child on a dry lakebed. In the present, the ex-trucker runs an ice factory where Jose (Francisco Godinez) lackadaisically works. Felipe (Aldo Estuardo) manages an Internet cafe, where he uses his position to anonymously toy with female customers via email messages. Burdened with a chronically drunk dad, Andres (Roberto Mares) divides his time between working for a plumbing service and learning Aztec folkloric dances.

For the first hour, Gerber and editors Rodrigo Rios and Juan Manuel Figueroa mechanically alternate among the three guys, withholding until midpoint that they’re longtime friends who have been out of touch with each other for some time. “Becloud” then shifts to an extended flashback, set eight years earlier at the school attended by young Jose (Joel Figueroa), Felipe (Oscar Levi Villaruel) and Andres (Luis Manuel Ontiveros). Felipe has sent pretty, smart Abigail (Vania Yael Santiago) an innocent love letter, but jealous Jose challenges him to a mock-Aztec duel with toy swords.

By far the film’s most engrossing section is the surprising and devastating follow-up to this apparently harmless battle between lads, which lifts the narrative into a strong critique of Mexican society. The connection between these events and the present is resolved when events flash-forward once again, but the conclusion feels rather pat after the intense preceding sequence.

Double-casting roles separated by a mere eight years in age is always difficult, and in this case never quite convinces. Production elements, including cinematographer Alberto Anaya’s high-contrast work, are in line with mainstream Mexican filmmaking despite pic’s position on the more indie side of the ledger.

English title is awkward, though literal translations (such as “Mist”) are no better. An extended sequence set during the 2007 and 2008 passion plays in the film’s primary locale, the bleak Mexico City suburb of Ixtapalapa, sends the film momentarily into the realm of documentary.

Becloud

Mexico

Production

A Global Film Initiative (in U.S.) release of an Albricias Producciones/Foprocine/Conaculta presentation. Produced by Abril Schmucler, Alejandro Gerber. Directed, written by Alejandro Gerber.

Crew

Camera (color), Alberto Anaya; editors, Rodrigo Rios, Juan Manuel Figueroa; music, Rodrigo Garibay, Matias Barberis; production designer, Arturo Hernandez; costume designer, Alejandra Dorantes. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, June 2, 2010. (In Hola Mexico, Morelia, Rotterdam film festivals.) Running time: 117 MIN.

With

Francisco Godinez, Aldo Estuardo, Roberto Mares, Joel Figueroa, Oscar Levi Villaruel, Luis Manuel Ontiveros, Fermin Martinez, Vania Yael Santiago, Tomihuatzi Xelhuantzi, Humberto Yanez, Asur Zagada, Teresa Rabago, Marta Aura, Sandra Carbonell, Katia Carbajal, Noe Hernandez, Luisa Pardo.

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