Wednesday, October 18, 2023

NewFest 2023 Review: ALMAMULA (CARNAL SINS)

Reviewed by: Josh "The Merc" Raynor

My initial reaction to this film was very mixed. The treatment that our main character, Nino, receives throughout was extremely off-putting. But after sitting with it and really giving it some thought, it dawned on me what the director, Juan Sebastian Torales, was trying to say here.

Now, the struggle of growing up as a gay teen in an oppressive, religiously conservative, extremely homophobic place is something I, thankfully, have no experience with (as I didn't come out as bisexual until just last year in my late 30's), but the feelings of loneliness and isolation that are seen throughout this film are more than familiar territory. Nino's desire to essentially just disappear is something I felt a lot throughout my childhood, and gave me a greater sense of empathy for what he was going through.

Torales does a great job of mixing the horror vibes with a sense of drama. But while the film does play like a horror film at times, it isn't the supernatural being in the forest, or the creepy, demon-like face that provide the true terror, instead it's the world around Nino. His family, the priest, the kids in his village, they all showcase the real horrors that many in the LGBTQ+ community have had to deal with, at one point or another.

And it's these real-life horrors that truly drive the narrative forward. Whether it's being treated as a disappointment, shamed, or even physically attacked just for trying to figure out who he is, Nino's journey through this film is an all too familiar one. Even taking him to the point where he'd rather disappear into the unknown horrors of the forest than continue on in the life he's currently living, and that's just heartbreaking.

The film also shows exactly why I despise most organized religions. Many of them brainwash their followers at a young age into thinking they are terrible people who need saving, instead of just letting them discover their path in life for themselves and nurturing them into being good people, without the fear of eternal damnation.

Nicolas Diaz, who plays Nino, gives an incredible, nearly emotionless performance, perfectly displaying on the outside how that level of isolation and constant shaming can make someone feel on the inside. It's a fascinating character piece that I'm glad to have seen, even if not everything worked in it as well as I had hoped.

The Merc's Score: 7/10


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