TIFF 2016: Jesús

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After his group loses a local talent show, Jesús (Nicolás Durán) and his friends revert to their old standby for comfort: getting drunk, watching narco snuff porn and causing trouble. Stuck in this rut for quite some time, Jesús lacks any real sense of direction. He mismanages his money, routinely lies to his frustrated father (Alejandro Goic) and cannot seem to take the steps required to further his education.

When one particular night of drunken revelry ends with Jesús (Nicolás Durán) and his friends degrading and physically assaulting a defenseless drunk teen they stumbled upon, the group soon find themselves in trouble when the young man ends up in a coma. As the police and media begin to hunt for the assailants, a guilt-ridden Jesús has no alternative but to turn to his father for help. Forcing his father to question how far must a parent go to protect their child?

Directed by Fernando Guzzoni, Jesús is an unapologetically raw film that gets under one’s skin. While there is an intriguing moral dilemma in the last half of the film, getting there will be take far more fortitude on the part of the viewer than expected. Guzzoni’s film desperately wants to be considered edgy, but more often than not it feels like it is being shocking for no other reason than to get a rise out of the viewer. The graphic sex scenes and brutal violence add little to the characters that the audience did not already figure out.

Unlike other films that explore themes of reckless youths-take Larry Clark’s Kids for example, which expertly offered a scathing commentary on the moral apathy of modern youth-Jesús’ message gets lost in its own excess. By the time Jesús reaches out to his father for help, one has lost all interest in what happens to these characters. Which is a shame considering that the film finally began to find its footing at this point. If Guzzoni had explored the father-son dynamic further throughout, rather than revel in the depravity of Jesús and his crew, the film’s moral quandary might have resonated more. As it stands, Jesús is more interesting in shocking the viewer than it is getting its message across.