Time Out saysChile, 1973: the world of 11-year-old Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer) is changing apace. For one, mum and dad aren’t getting on that well. For another, his headmaster has given scholarships to several new boys from a nearby shanty town, despite some opposition from the school’s mainly rich parents and their mostly insensitive progeny; Gonzalo, however, is open-minded enough to befriend Pedro Machuca (Ariel Mateluna), who teaches him about life on the other side – such as how to sell flags to supporters of both sides in the increasingly tense confrontation between President Allende and General Pinochet…
The imminent coup, of course, will be the biggest change to affect Gonzalo in Wood’s efficient rites-of-passage drama. The child’s-eye view of a nation in turmoil ensures both that the viewer’s learning curve can parallel that of a sympathetic and innocent child, and that the political and historical fare is leavened with more widely appealing ingredients such as high jinks and a first kiss. It’s a surprisingly slick film, with the strengths and weakness that entails: the staging of crowd scenes, period detail and acting are mostly good, but the film never quite steers clear of generic stereotypes and contrivance: one classroom scene, in particular, is regrettably reminiscent of a significant Hollywood moment. Still, the film’s heart is in the right place, and many will no doubt be charmed and stirred by its sentiments.
Fri May 6, 2005