Staff Reviews: Miss Bala by Kasia Gwilliam, Screen Lounge Assistant

More now, perhaps than ever before, has the world’s attention been so fixed on the problems facing Mexico and its people. Kidnapping, drug and people trafficking, police corruption, and grizzly public displays of extreme violence are rife, even in the once picture postcard, tourist reliant resorts.

Gerardo Naranjo’s film gives us a brutal and personal glimpse into this reality through the eyes of 23 year old Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman). His heroine, another poor soul caught up in a brutal reality, appears to have found a potential escape from a poor and mundane life through the plastic glamour of the Miss Baja California pageant along with her best friend Suzu. Things quickly take an ugly turn after Laura witnesses a massacre in a nightclub. Unluckily, upon going to the police, she finds herself thrust into the merciless hands of a brutal gang.

Laura’s looks save her from imminent death, becoming a driver and runner for her captors. Beauty is exploited in this film, with the gang leader Lino (Noe Hernandez) ensuring Laura has a pretty dress and a fair (cough cough) shot at the pageant title, to be used by the ugliest means for his own gain. Bizarrely Laura finds herself thrust into the pageant completely unprepared and overwhelmed, only to be crowned the winner. Out of her depth and broken, the beauty, wealth and status that she once dreamed of becomes tainted and is not the glimmer of hope she once hoped it would be.

Naranjo succeeds in painting a desperate picture and Laura’s fear and hopelessness are wonderfully captured. About 80% of Miss Bala is shot a foot away from Laura’s face, up close and personal with no holds barred, so that we feel every look, every ounce of terror right there alongside our main character.  As a woman of the same age as the heroine, I felt particular empathy toward the scared little girl who just wants to feel pretty and loved.

Thankfully, this film was not Hollywood-ised at all, every gunshot, punch and scream is justified and necessary to the story, but by no means is this an easy film to watch. There are a few uncomfortable scenes that are fairly predictable but I think this film serves its purpose, it is honest and real, and its critical acclaim at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival is well deserved. Miss Bala is heartbreaking and brutal, but an excellent reminder of what our fellow man can inflict upon us and the desperate and unfair circumstances our peers in developing countries must endure.

Kasia works at Phoenix Square front of house in the cafe/bar. She is studying towards a level 3 practitioner qualification in Massage Therepy and Beauty Specialism. Her other interests include being a gym fanatic and a music lover. She would also like this oppertunity to shamelessly plug the legendary Uncle Frank Xmas Show 30th December at The Donkey pub on Welford Road! Tickets £10, 0116 270 5042, don’t miss out!!

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