It’s hard not to be charmed by the intensely likeable Mexican movie “El Jeremías,” a heartwarming and funny film from director Anwar Safa (whose style pays homage to Wes Anderson without ever feeling like a copycat).
The plot focuses on Jeremías, an 8 year old boy who is growing up in Sonora. A naturally inquisitive child, Jeremías is always asking “why?” but receiving less than satisfactory answers from the blockhead adults around him. When he grabs the attention and friendship of an elderly chess loving bookstore owner, Jeremías takes an IQ test and is deemed a genius. Each character faces their own struggles when this information comes to light.
This film places great pride and considerable importance on education, something that you don’t see too often in movies. Though they are poor and living with multi-generations of relatives in one small house, the boy’s parents Onésimo (Paulo Galindo) and Margarita (Karem Momo Ruiz) truly want the best for him. They even save up to buy him a used computer and nurture his quest for knowledge, including letting the child hang out in classes at a local medical school. With his big brain making him even more of an outsider, Jeremías (Martín Castro, a completely organic and natural kid actor) soon goes on a journey of self discovery and puts up roadblocks for himself by way of an existential crisis about religion, career, school, and his future.
At its heart this film is a comedy (its humor is universal), but parts of the story touch on some of the greater societal problems that some residents of Mexico face, including unemployment, poverty and drug cartels. (One of the best bits is when cornered by a group of drug dealing bullies who threaten to “beat the smart” out of him, Jeremías proceeds to inform them that this is “physically impossible”). Jeremías finds inspiration and escape through music (this movie has an incredible soundtrack, including different orchestral arrangements of “People Are Strange” by The Doors) and he carefully places posters on his bedroom wall of idols and notable geniuses like Albert Einstein, Bobby Fischer, Alan Turing and Jim Morrison. It’s no surprise when a famous author and psychologist (Daniel Giménez Cacho) wants to whisk Jeremías off to Mexico City as part of a research study, the boy jumps at the chance.
Once in the big city, Jeremías starts to feel ashamed of his family and embarrassed because most of the other kids in the study have brainy, successful parents (his dad works at a convenience store and his mom confuses things like autism with atheism). His young parents may be poor and not as bright as most, but they still want the best for their kid and do everything they can to encourage and support his gift.
In the end, the film reminds us that there’s no place like home, surrounded by unconditional love and support. It also stresses the importance of finding your own path to happiness and taking the time to let kids be kids. After all, we really shouldn’t be in such a hurry to grow up.
Matt was unavailable for review.