Sangre de Mi Sangre (Blood of My Blood)
IFC Films // Unrated // $24.95 // December 16, 2008
Review by Preston Jones | posted December 14, 2008
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie

Everyone hears it at some point, usually when they least want to: life isn't fair. Fate and circumstance have a way of conspiring against the best-laid plans, thwarting them with an ease that can leave a sickened feeling in the pit of your stomach. Take a risk and try to make your own luck and the consequences can, sometimes, prove to be absolutely disastrous. With Sangre de Mi Sangre (Blood of My Blood) his feature film debut, writer/director Christopher Zalla (who has since sharpened his directorial teeth on TV series like "Law & Order") takes that shopworn adage and pushes it to a logical and heartbreaking extreme.

Despite its expansive length, Sangre's narrative is elemental in its simplicity. Mexican youth Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola) is fleeing some thugs en route to smuggling himself into the United States. Breathless, he arrives at his destination just ahead of his pursuers. Leaping into a tractor-trailer bound for New York City, Pedro meets up with Juan (Armando Hernandez), a fellow traveler who appears to be friendly, offering the wide-eyed kid a bite to eat. Appearances are deceiving -- Juan turns out to be a conniving thief -- and Pedro comes to in the States with his identity stolen. The already complicated life of an illegal immigrant becomes even more treacherous.

Pedro's goal, once in New York City, was to connect with his father Diego (Jesus Ochoa), a dishwasher in Brooklyn who sent Pedro's mother money over the years. Juan, who had elicited that much information from Pedro, sets off to bleed Diego dry of his small fortune, amassed from fashioning flowers out of fabric. The disoriented Pedro stumbles his way through one mishap after another, forming an uneasy alliance with drug addict/prostitute Magda (Paola Mendoza), who teaches Pedro much about the unpleasant realities of life on the margins.

Sangre becomes a race against the clock, as Pedro frantically tries to locate his father, while Juan cozies up to the befuddled Diego. I'll refrain from offering any further spoilers, as much of Zalla's film benefits from being surprised by the outcome. However, I will offer my thanks -- it would've been easy to offer a neat, poignant resolution and this freshman filmmaker refrained. Conversely, Sangre would be a much stronger film if it were tightened up a bit, particularly in the latter third. There's a sense of padding out the run time towards the end, delaying a denouement in favor of unsettling sequences that underscore points already made elsewhere.

His cast of unknowns acquit themselves well -- the roles are well-acted, only occasionally slipping into stilted delivery and less-than-convincing emoting. Most importantly, Zalla (who has the aforementioned tendency to hammer home his points) paints a reasonably plausible picture of illegal immigration at the street level -- the huddled men waiting for a day's work and pay, the unseen staffs in restaurants, hotels, and other service industries and the bitter struggles that often result in meager returns. The conclusion of Sangre is appropriately ambiguous, but also shattering -- it's a satisfying conclusion narratively, but may hit some as sour. Whatever the reaction, fans of earthy, raw thrillers will want to get a little Sangre on 'em.

The DVD

The Video:

Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, this anamorphic widescreen transfer accurately reflects its gritty subject matter, displaying a fair amount of grain during the nighttime sequences and handling the often jittery handheld cinematography without too many flaws. The colors, drained of some vitality, nevertheless look solid throughout, blacks are likewise acceptable and the level of detail is fairly crisp.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a fine job of conveying dialogue (largely in Spanish and subtitled in English) and a wonderfully alive, ambient soundfield without shortchanging either. There isn't much in the way of robust setpieces, but the track gets the point across with no problems. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included.

The Extras:

There are no supplements.

Final Thoughts:

espite its expansive length, Sangre's narrative is elemental in its simplicity. Mexican youth Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola) is fleeing some thugs en route to smuggling himself into the United States. Breathless, he arrives at his destination just ahead of his pursuers. Leaping into a tractor-trailer bound for New York City, Pedro meets up with Juan (Armando Hernandez), a fellow traveler who appears to be friendly, offering the wide-eyed kid a bite to eat. Appearances are deceiving -- Juan turns out to be a conniving thief -- and Pedro comes to in the States with his identity stolen. The conclusion of Sangre is appropriately ambiguous, but also shattering -- it's a satisfying conclusion narratively, but may hit some as sour. Whatever the reaction, fans of earthy, raw thrillers will want to get a little Sangre on 'em. Recommended.



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