Lupe Under the Sun

Lupe Under the Sun poster

Lupe Under the Sun movie poster

Paying homage to his grandfather as well as migrant workers, Rodrigo Reyes’ Lupe Under The Sun follows an old Mexican peach picker who, after finding out he’s sick, decides to go back to Mexico to see his estranged family.

The movie has a raw, meditative and documentary-like feel, which won’t surprise those who saw Mr. Reyes previous work, the intriguing Purgatorio, which gave a stark, reflective look at the Mexican US border. To symbolize his character’s harsh and tedious daily routine, Mr. Reyes has built his new film on a Groundhog Day-like repetitive structure, which for the first 20m can be pretty disconcerting, as not much is going on.

For the most part, we watch Lupe (Daniel Muratalla) going to work, riding his bike around town, hanging out in his tiny apartment or drinking all night. He has a girlfriend, another lonely soul, whom he sees sporadically and hasn’t called his wife and daughter in years. Like lots of people having trouble making ends meet, he feels hopeless, prisoner of his life, but his sickness suddenly gives him a pretext to escape this environment.

What’s interesting with Lupe Under The Sun, is that Mr. Reyes doesn’t go for pathos, never attempting to draw pity from his audience, contrary to most movies about migrants. Rather, he makes his central character a flawed and quite unlikable figure. Lupe left his daughter saying he was going to California for a painting job but never came back. He hasn’t called or sent money back home until now and he’s also distant with his girlfriend.

I’m not sure if Lupe is an accurate depiction of the filmmaker’s grandfather but this lack of empathy certainly makes for a more nuanced and original feature. While most movies about Latin and South American immigrants usually focus on the dangerous and courageous journey that take them across the border, this one brushes a somewhat less flattering portrait of a broken American dream and immigrants forgetting those they left behind.

Similarly to Purgatorio, what makes the beauty of this work is also what might disconnect it from some spectators at times. Taking on a social or political theme with an ethereal tone takes the risk to reduce the message’s impact. While I certainly had an idea where Mr. Reyes was going with this story or with Purgatorio, I must admit he sometimes lost me on foggy roads, a few sequences lacking clarity. These minor, narrative bumps, are however part of an overall poetic experience, Mr. Reyes creating subtle, powerful works, walking a fine line between art and social-consciousness.

Director: Rodrigo Reyes – Actors: Daniel Muratalla, Ana Muratalla – Running Time: 1:18 – Year: 2016 – Country: Mexico, USA
Click here to watch the Lupe Under the Sun trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.
Fred Thom

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1 Comment

  • I watched this film in London yesterday and the Director took questions afterwards. After sleeping on it, I have come to the conclusion Rodrigo Reyes is a masterful communicator who has managed to evade the cultural border guards to question the way we use work, not just economic migration, to justify selfishness.

    British tomatoes are picked by migrant Polish workers while Polish tomatoes are being picked by North Korean migrant workers so British tomato pickers can get coursework degrees and become teachers and social workers. Something similar probably goes on in California. Is the free movement of labor just another form of slavery?

    Great film, it made me think. *****