El Crimen del Padre Amaro
It was controversial, and a big hit, in its native Mexico, but arriving in the year of our own Catholic scandals, El Crimen del Padre Amaro, a drama about a young priest who is drawn into a love affair with a 16-year-old girl in his parish, looks no more incendiary than daily tabloid-newspaper filler. The real crime is the way that the movie turns Gael García Bernal, the hot-tempered, Roman-lipped costar of ”Y Tu Mamá También, into a backwater Freddie Prinze Jr. He plays the guileless Father Amaro as a blank slate who remains blank regardless of what happens to him.
Assigned to a small church in Los Reyes, Amaro learns that the reigning holy man, the loathsome Father Benito (Sancho Gracia), is in cahoots with the local drug lord. Yet Amaro turns a blind eye to corruption. Is he jaded himself or just a passive survivor trying to slip through a world of greased palms? The movie hardly gives us a clue, and Amaro’s relationship with the gorgeous, devout Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón, who looks ready for her Vogue close-up) signifies nothing except, perhaps, director Carlos Carrera’s blunt mastery of a basic exploitation principle: A teenage hottie will always look even sexier in a confessional.