Review by Bradley Smith
What can I say about Padre? A question I have been asking myself for a few days now. It is another “middle of the road” type movies where I did not love it, but I did not hate it either. It wasn’t all that thrilling or exciting, but neither was it dull or boring. Does that make sense? Padre is a good mix of familiar stories with genuine actors and believable characters. It may stir up a little immigration debate or thoughts on revenge, but it was otherwise a rather lackluster film.
There are three plot threads woven throughout the movie. First, we meet an orphaned girl, Lena (Valeria Henríquez), who is trying to get into the United States to reunite with her younger sister. While trying to save up some money, she meets the titular Padre (convincingly played by Tim Roth), a con man running from a horrible tragedy in his past. Following close behind him is a local police, Gaspar (played by the often entertaining Luis Guzmán, though he is more the moral center of this film) and a US Court Justice, Nemes (played by relative newcomer Nick Nolte) seeking revenge for the very same aforementioned horrible tragedy.
At first, the Padre wants nothing to do with 16-year-old Lena, but her desperation, keen observation skills, and miraculous speed and foresight allow her to stow away in a car that she just knows he’s going to steal. After a tiny bit of convincing, he agrees to let her act as his local guide while he mentors her on some of his con man ways. Together, they quickly start working together not always realizing that danger is still on their heels.
The film has a steady flow, blending action and drama with a touch of comic relief and social commentary. Most of the suspense ends rather predictably, though there may be one or two unexpected twists. Or not, Gaspar even basically says how the film will end in his first scene. The flashbacks to the Padre’s and Nemes’ shared trauma is just that, traumatic and heartbreaking. I won’t spoil that by even discussing what was involved, but I will say it is understandable how these two men came to be in the opposing states that they are in when the movie began.
Overall, I liked the film. The acting and plot were well enough to hold my attention. The only real problem I had, setting aside any subtle sarcasm above, was how easily Lena effectively abandoned what was essentially her new family for a life of crime and a glimmer of a chance to reunite with her old family. But maybe her life was worse than the film let on and “blood is thicker than water” is an old saying for a reason. I can’t say it moved me, but it was fairly entertaining.
A side note for those that “don’t like to read”, about 25% of the dialogue is Spanish with subtitles. I think there was one or two whole scenes in Spanish, but most of it switched back and forth with English. If you’re not stubborn about reading a movie, this one might be worth the extra effort.
Available on Digital and VOD Now, in Theaters September 28 & on DVD October 30
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