Jesús (Nicolás Durán) is a lower middle-class teenager from the suburbs of Santiago del Chile going through a lot of changes while growing into a man. He maintains a tense and reticent relationship with his father, Hector (Alejandro Goic) who he sees only a few times a month. After Jesús’s mother dies, both father and son seem to struggle to get along. They begin reshaping a relationship whose foundation was never really solid.
This protagonist spends most of his days with other boys from the neighborhood. In his friends he finds empathy, protection, emotional attachment, and even a secret sexual connection with one of them, Pizarro (Sebastián Ayala). During the day they skip classes to hang out; by night they compete in a local K-Pop cover-band contest and wander around drunkenly in Santiago’s public parks.
On one of these nights out at a park, the group come across a similarly aged boy knocked out behind bushes. The group approach the boy seemingly willing to help him. As the night goes on, the contact with this stranger shifts drastically. The once timid interaction evolves into unfriendly practical jokes, slightly violent games, until it culminates into a lethal lynching of the boy. Only the next day Jesús and his friends realize things went too far. Now the whole city is searching for whoever attacked an innocent gay boy in a park. On the news the story is being framed as a hate-crime and the suspects are being called “neo-Nazis”.
Jesús is less about juvenile delinquency than it is about violence that stems from adolescents testing limits and as a result losing control of the situation. The direction and script by Fernando Guzzoni seem to be inspired by the almost archetypical lynching cases by and of youngsters. The film depicts a random encounter which happened to progress into a barbarous act against an innocent boy. Given the unmistakable similarities and societal backgrounds between victim and aggressors – one can speculate they could have easily been friends.
The shaky images in the movie echo the contradictory elements driving this unexpected escalation: a mix of innocence and cruelty, maliciousness and boyishness as well as peer pressure. Said pressure, under extreme circumstances may lead to inebriating and aimless violence against an innocent individual.
In an almost anthropological approach, the director dives into Jesús’s life. By showing his daily activities, hobbies, tastes, rapport with his peers and relationship with his father, the movie tries to make sense an inhuman act. Nicolás Durán, along with the rest of the movie’s juvenile crew – including Sebastián Ayala – ray out freshness throughout the complex path of the characters, strengthening the documentary-like features of the movie. The movie goes beyond trying to solve why such a tragic incident came about. The plot really takes off when the movie narrates how the protagonist and his friends try to get out of the situation. While dealing with joint-responsibility, Jésus will reconsider his bonds, revise his beliefs, and deal with questions of loyalty so that he can get through his first and hardest test into adulthood.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures