Movie Information

Genre: Comedy Drama Fantasy
Director: Alejandro Springall
Starring: Dolores Heredia, Demi?n Bichir, Alberto Estrella, Ana Bertha Esp?n, Fernando Torre Laphame
Rated: R

How can anyone not like a movie in which the heroine sees visions of St. Jude shimmering in the grime on her oven window (“Thank God, I ran out of Easy-Off,” she tells her priest)? Well, maybe there are those who can, but I’m not among them. First-time feature director Alejandro Springall and first-time screenwriter Maria Amparo Escandon (adapting her own novel) have concocted a charming, thoroughly beguiling comedy fantasy with Santitos (1999), a movie in which the supernatural and the most mundane coexist in quirky harmony.

Mexican actress Dolores Heredia stars as Esperanza, a bereaved mother, whose 12-year-old daughter has just died from mysterious complications following a tonsillectomy. At least, that’s what she’s been told. St. Jude tells her otherwise, so she seeks the counsel of her soap-opera addicted (“When you’re hooked on a soap, you’re hooked”) priest (Fernando Torre Laphame). He thinks she’s unhinged, but listens anyway — not in the least because her story gets more like a soap as it goes on. With further saintly visits and some loopy deductive reasoning, she concludes that her daughter was kidnapped by the doctor and sold as an underage sex-slave. (The priest knows about these things from the tabloids.) The only reasonable course, she decides, is to go find her — becoming a prostitute herself in the bargain.

With surprising good humor — and just the right mix of reverence and irreverence about the intervention of saints — the film charts a bizarre trip through brothels and other domains of kink, with characters including (but not limited to) an aging drag queen madame and her prissy boy toy; a millionaire lawyer; an artistically-bent voyeur; and a real-life angel in the guise of a flashy luchador called the Angel of Justice (Alberto Estrella, Man on Fire). Beautiful to look at (Springall’s sense of color and composition is stunning) and stylish to a fault, the film may drag a little in the later reels, but it’s so seductive in its charm that it hardly matters.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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