Summary and Review of Tigers are not Afraid

Estrella: Paola Lara El Shine: Juan Ramon Lopez Morro: Nery Arredondo Tucsi: Hanssel Casillas Pop: Rodrigo Cortez El Chino: Tenoch Huerta Caco: Ianis Guerrero Director: Issa Lopez Writer: Issa Lopez Release: 2019

Tigers Don't Cry isn't a horror film in the strictest sense. The horror is more of the human kind although it's interwoven with del Toro-esque fantasy visuals and supernatural visions, creating a modern fairy tale that will both enrage you and break your heart.

The story opens, in an un-named Mexican city, with Estrella (Paola Lara) at school with her and her classmates having to take cover as a gunfight erupts outside. We are quickly exposed to the world of violence that surrounds Estrella and it’s clear that this is commonplace as she walks home past a dead body without flinching.

On her return home, Estrella finds an empty apartment and waits for her mother to return. After many hours, she is driven to seek refuge with a gang of orphans who have built a rather homely den in the vicinity. There is a general acceptance that the same fate has befallen her mother as many other women in the area. That of kidnap and murder or trafficking by the local gangsters who go by the name of the Huascas.

The boys, El Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez), Pop (Rodrigo Cortez), Tucsi (Hanssel Casillas) and Morro (Nery Arredondo) were brought together by calamitous events caused by the Huascas, destroying their lives and families. They steal food and scavenge to get by, while avoiding Caco (Ianis Guerrero), a member of the Huascas, who is busy hunting down El Shine to retrieve the phone that the boy stole from him, which both characters have strong motives for wanting to possess. 

Set against the backdrop of a city where the inhabitants are few and law enforcement absent, “Tigers are not Afraid” drags the viewer into a hellish world of corruption, violence and a total lack of morality as the feuding gangsters fight for supremacy in a broken kingdom. The viewer may be forgiven for wondering why anyone would sacrifice their humanity for such a crown.

The cinematic techniques weren’t quite on point, with some shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting in places but you're not really watching this for a visual masterpiece. The narrative and settings are so arresting that imperfections are irrelevant. At times, the blending of the fantasy/horror aspects and the real-life narrative didn’t quite hang together as neatly as they could but, overall, this film is mesmerising, gripping and shocking in equal measure. 

The acting was superb and one of the impressive things about this film was Lopez's direction of the children, and all credit to her for extracting such nuanced and challenging performances from the young actors. 

Paola Lara and Juan Ramon Lopez both excel; he, as the tough but vulnerable El Shine. Brooding and glowering, he mistrusts everyone and everything, She, as the innocent abroad. Unsure, indecisive but anchored by a mission to ensure that truth and justice will win the day.  I give a special mention to Nery Arredondo who, despite his young years, was terrifically adorable as Morro with an unforgettable, heart-rending performance.

It wasn’t all simmering tension and explosive violence and there are times when we are reminded that we are watching children. They find time for recreation, In between dodging gangsters, by entertaining themselves in the way that kids do when left to their own devices, providing some heart-warming and welcome relief.

In the tradition of good story-telling, Issa Lopez treats us to a tale of humanity in a titanic struggle to escape from horrors not of their making and survive against all the odds. It knows what it wants to say and how to say it by highlighting everything that is broken in an insane world where children are abandoned without care and administrative and political corruption causes the plight of the people while simultaneously promising to fix it.

"Tigers are not Afraid" is rich in symbolism that viewers will easily recognise without spending the run-time wondering about the meaning, successfully merging heart-felt emotion with terrifying shocks, all the while maintaining a clear sense of purpose. It’s unrelenting and not an easy watch but one that should not to be missed.



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