Setting is Santiago, Chile, 1973. Civil unrest abounds. A coup is eminent. When principal Father McEnroe (Ernesto Malbran) invites lower-income boys to attend his school and integrate with his upper-class students, life changes for loner Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer). The class bully’s seat is moved away from Gonzalo and new student Pedro Machuca takes his seat. The two boys forge a friendship that draws Gonzalo out of his tumultuous home life and his undesired collusion with his mother, while Pedro gains a needed male friend.
Events leading to the military coup of General Augusto Pinochet on September 11, 1973, are depicted as they affect the characters in this coming of age film. Tensions heighten between the wealthy (Gonzalo and his family) and the impoverished (Machuca’s family). This, ultimately, roadblocks the blossoming friendship. Quer’s expressive face brings great life to Gonzalo’s character. His happiness at his new friendship and experiences is palpable. Machuca’s lack of fear in the face of the bully and authority provides Gonzalo courage. When they both fall for same girl who seems to prefer Gonzalo (although she constantly criticizes him calling him a rich snob), their friendships begins its descent.
As you can tell, I love films from abroad. The French do them very very well, but recently, the Spanish and Latin Americans are leaving me more entertained, impressed and on the search for more. This one is fantastic. (How do kids act so well at such a young age?) They display passion, fear, sadness, joy; they’re brilliant at emoting, something adults don’t often permit themselves without condemnation.
Co-writer/Director: Andrés Wood
Run time: 119 minutes