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Mexican film is both heartbreaking drama and supernatural thriller that takes place in 2006 during the drug wars as thousands are being abducted and killed, thus leaving orphans to live on the cruel streets. Estrella (Paola Lara) is one such girl whose mother disappears while she is at school. She is forced to join a group of four orphaned boys (Juan Ramón López as Shine, Rodrigo Cortes as Pop, Nery Arredondo as little Morro and Hanssel Casillas as Tucsi) who are surviving by theft and sticking together. Not only are they pursued by a ruthless drug lord and his thugs, for a phone they stole, but Estrella is being followed by a supernatural entity whose intent is yet unknown.

Film is very well directed by Issa López from her own script. The movie combines supernatural thriller, harsh street drama and a touch of fantasy, as we are dealing with children after all. The supernatural elements can be spooky, but it is the unflinching look at children surviving under the worst conditions that really tugs the heart. López’s camera doesn’t flinch in it’s portrayal of children in a violent world and how these kids become “tigers” to survive it. The fantasy elements blend in well, as children at this age are still capable of believing in magic and fairy tales to help them cope with adversity…and loss. To say López gets good performances out of her young cast is an understatement. The kids are great. The film can be a bit slow moving at times, even at only 83 minutes, and is very dark, violent and grim, but also comes to a satisfying conclusion where all the elements come together nicely. Not perfect, but it’s an original, spooky and very touching and thought provoking movie from Issa López. Also stars Tenoch Huerta as drug lord El Chino and Ianis Guerrero as one of his thugs whose path the kids unfortunately cross.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating