Los lobos, AKA The Wolves, by Samuel Kishi film review
30 April 2023
America is the land of hope and glory. According to legend, it’s the place to make a new start in life. And, more importantly perhaps, is also home to Disneyworld. The prospect of visiting the entertainment complex is an enticement Lucia (Martha Reyes Arias) has offered her young school age sons, Max (Maximiliano Nájar Márquez), and Leo (Leonardo Nájar Márquez), as they immigrate to the United States.
Unknown circumstances have forced the family to leave their native Mexico. But Lucia knows the life waiting them on the other side of the border will be anything but the stuff of dreams. She’ll be working long hours in menial jobs, despite being capable of bigger things. They’ll be calling a barely habitable apartment their home. But Lucia hopes the lure of one day going to Disneyworld will help Max and Leo see passed these hardships.
Unable to yet place the boys in a school, Lucia leaves them at home, alone, when she goes to work. Sometimes she does not return until late in the evening. Max and Leo are subject to a number of rules, including never leaving the apartment, unless it is on fire. To pass the long days with only each other for company, the boys retreat into a fantasy realm, and imagine themselves to be Ninja Turtles.
Max and Leo also speculate about their absent father. All they have of him is a photo on an old identity card, from his days as a police officer. What became of him, they don’t know. All Lucia will say is he “went away by lightbulb”. Unsurprisingly, the boys are often transfixed by a broken lightbulb in the apartment, and seemingly will their father to return to their lives through it.
But boredom begins to get the better of Max and Leo. The apartment is too confining. All they have to amuse themselves is an old cassette recorder. Too much is going on around the apartment complex. A group of slightly older boys, who also don’t seem to be at school, play football in the courtyard. Max and Leo yearn to join them. But their desire for companionship comes with unfortunate consequences.
Los lobos (trailer), also known as The Wolves, is partly based on the experiences of Mexican filmmaker Samuel Kishi, who also co-wrote the screenplay. For reasons I cannot fathom though, Kishi’s second feature, made in 2019, seems to have been overlooked by most film-goers. Certainly, no fault lies in the scene framing or cinematography, which is exceptional.
Nor the slow-burning, sometimes evasive, storytelling. We learn little about the life Lucia and her sons had in Mexico, and remain equally in the dark as to their fate come the credit roll, though the aforementioned lightbulb allegory is eloquently resolved. Los lobos is a slice of life gem not to miss.