The purity of a boy’s puppy love acts as a shield against the harsh reality of plebeian Mexico City in “Sugar Kisses,” the sophomore directorial feature of Carlos Cuaron (who co-penned the Oscar-nommed screenplay of “Y tu mama tambien,” directed by his brother Alfonso). Cute kidpic-with-a-message is well executed technically but predictable, plot-wise, though an appealing lead perf from tyke Cesar Kancino keeps things watchable throughout. Local biz should be decent, and auds at younger-skewing fests in particular will want to embrace it.

Wide-eyed and naive, if more than occasionally mischievous, 13-year-old Nacho (Kancino) is in love with pretty Mayra (Daniela Arce), which would be fine if she weren’t the daughter of Diabla (a devilishly dressed Veronica Falcon), a corrupted piece of work who controls the market stalls where Nacho’s iniquitous stepdad (Enrique Arreola) makes a living. Contrasting childlike infatuation with a world full of violence, vice and dishonesty is neither new nor subtle, though as in Cuaron’s helming debut, “Rudo y Cursi,” it’s not the story’s originality but the likability of the protags that wins out.

Sugar Kisses
Besos de azucar

Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival (competing), March 2, 2013. Running time: 86 MIN.

A Besos Cosmicos production. Produced by Carlos Cuaron, Alex Garcia. Executive producers, Santiago Garcia Galvan, Alejandra Guevara.

Directed by Carlos Cuaron. Screenplay, Cuaron, Luis Usabiaga. Camera (color, HD), Kenji Katori; editor, Mariana Rodriguez; music, Pablo Lach, Felipe Perez Santiago; production designer, Alejandro Garcia; costume designer, Atzin Hernandez; sound (Dolby Digital), Isabel Munoz; casting, Viridiana Olvera.

With: Cesar Kancino, Daniela Arce, Kristyan Ferrer, Veronica Falcon, Yolanda Martinez, Paloma Arredondo, Enrique Arreola, Hector Jimenez.