You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Turtle Family

First-timer writer-director Ruben Imaz's "Turtle Family" expressively captures the daze of unresolved grief, but the fascination with the hour-by-hour minutiae in the lives of four family members comes dangerously close to becoming too much of a good thing.

With: Jose Angel Bichir, Luisa Pardo, Manuel Plata, Dagoberto Gama.

First-timer writer-director Ruben Imaz’s “Turtle Family” expressively captures the daze of unresolved grief, but the fascination with the hour-by-hour minutiae in the lives of four family members comes dangerously close to becoming too much of a good thing. Reminiscent of “Six Feet Under’s” dramatization of a clan’s emotional pulse, “Turtle” tracks 24 hours preceding the anniversary of a beloved mother’s death as experienced by a widower, his son, daughter and brother-in-law. Daring pic will field theatrical bids locally and abroad, especially if trimmed of unnecessary narrative fat.

Uncle Manuel (Manuel Plata) putters around his home, which he has shared with brother-in-law Jose (vet thesp Dagoberto Gama), son Omar (Jose Angel Bichir) and Ana (Luisa Pardo) ever since the death of the family matriarch. Imaz maintains a steady and consistent point of view on each character, sometimes pushing his camera into their faces, but observing them without judgment and with considerable patience.

Manuel has a slight mental defect that makes him a figure of some isolation and melancholy, as he’s forever concerned about tracking down one of his pet turtles. Omar and Ana ready to go to school, and once on their own, they wander into encounters that test their desires, sexual and otherwise. It’s here that “Turtle Family” appears to want to suggest something larger about the chasm between generations, and how youth act out in response to the loss of a parent, but it remains vaguely realized, particularly in the case of Omar.

The family’s enduring pain is seldom if ever expressed verbally, but through Jose’s struggles as a former union man now trying to get by selling shoes out of his car, the film finds an authentic expression of the ways surviving family members cope even when their dignity has been eroded. The eventual gathering at mom’s grave is needlessly delayed by a protracted final section that requires trimming; there’s nothing in Imaz’ conception that demands a running time of nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Requiring the utmost of his central quartet of actors, Imaz’s most impressive achievement is to draw out fine, subtle portrayals ranging from Gama’s troubled father trying to hold on as family breadwinner to newcomer Plata, whose own physical ailments are well integrated into an older man with a few surprises of his own. Bichir and Pardo keep the emotional temperature effectively low just when melodrama could kick in.

Vid lensing (in a good 35mm transfer) by Gerardo Barroso emphasizes faces and isolating domestic interiors in a desaturated color palette, while Leon Felipe Gonzalez performs an ace triple role as editor, sound recorder and sound designer. Galo Duran keeps his music score cues spare and succinct.

Turtle Family


Production: A Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica/Conacine presentation. (International sales: Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica, Mexico City.) Produced by Maribel Muro. Directed, written by Ruben Imaz.

Crew: Camera (Color, DV-to-35mm), Gerardo Barroso; editor, Leon Felipe Gonzalez; music, Galo Duran; sound (Dolby Digital), Gonzalez. Reviewed at Mexico City Film Festival, Feb. 23, 2007. Running time: 139 MIN.

With: With: Jose Angel Bichir, Luisa Pardo, Manuel Plata, Dagoberto Gama.

More Film

  • So Long, My Son directed by

    Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son' Earns Six APSA Nominations

    Chinese drama, “So Long, My Son,” was nominated in six categories for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards. The unprecedented haul makes it a clear favorite. The Wang Xiaoshuai-directed drama about separation, secrets, a lifetime of regret, and the consequences of China’s one child policy, had its premiere in February at the Berlin festival. There [...]

  • Alan Rickman

    Film News Roundup: 'Galaxy Quest' Documentary Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, rescue drama “Not Without Hope” is back in development, a “Galaxy Quest” documentary is set for release, “The Two Popes” wins another award, and Ella Joyce gets cast. PROJECT REVIVED U.K.-based financing-production outfit Goldfinch has bought feature film rights to Nick Schuyler’s “Not Without Hope” and signed “The Fog” director [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds John Krasinkski

    Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski in Talks for 'Imaginary Friends' Movie

    Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski are in talks to board the fantasy comedy “Imaginary Friends” at Paramount Studios. Paramount recently won the bidding for the property over Lionsgate and Sony. Krasinski will write, direct,  produce and star while Reynolds will co-star if the deals go through. The story centers on a man who can see [...]

  • Willem Dafoe attends the "Motherless Brooklyn"

    Willem Dafoe Joins Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

    Willem Dafoe has closed a deal to join Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of “Nightmare Alley.” Collider had first reported that Dafoe was being considered for a role in the film, but sources now say the “Lighthouse” star has closed a deal to join the cast. The “At [...]

  • 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    Busan Film Review: 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    “To the Ends of the Earth,” the story of a young Japanese journalist’s experiences in Uzbekistan filming a report for a Japanese TV travel show, was originally commissioned to celebrate 25 years of cordial diplomatic relations between director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s hyper-developed island homeland and the less affluent, landlocked Central Asian nation. As such we might [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content