Miami International Film Festival

Jean Charles

7:15 p.m. March 7 and 9:15 p.m. March 14 at Regal South Beach

9 p.m. March 12 at Tower Theater

Blood and Rain
Blood and Rain

In 2005, 52 people died in terrorist bombings in London. The resulting paranoia and xenophobia is well-described in Jean Charles, directed by Henrique Goldman. Based on the true story of a Brazilian electrician living in London who was mistaken for a Muslim terrorist, the film could have been a public lashing of the British government. Instead, it is a sentimental eulogizing of a hard-working immigrant, wonderfully played by Selton Mello, doing his best to improve the circumstances of his own life and those around him. The film's only fault is heavy-handedness in relaying that Jean Charles loved London. At one point, he buys a kitschy snow globe of the British capital for his newly arrived but homesick cousin so she can always remember how beautiful the city is; Goldman seems to be shouting: "Would a terrorist do this?" Amanda McCorquodale

25 Carat

7 p.m. March 8 and 4 p.m. March 14 at Regal South Beach

7 p.m. March 13 at Tower Theater

Born into the itinerant life of a con artist, Kay (Aida Folch) is a sexy but street-tough young woman who's helped her father, Sebas (Manuel Morón), run scams since she learned to walk. After 16 months in Barcelona, Kay and Sebas have started to settle into a routine: She steals cars while he fences jewelry. When Mexican gangsters return to collect an overdue debt, Sebas begins plotting a big job that involves a crew of crooked cops, a big bag of stolen jewels, an incriminating videotape, and a cable news network. Written and directed by first-time Spanish filmmaker Patxi Amézcua, this action thriller is more conventional than many of the movies in the festival. However, Amézcua delivers his story with full knowledge of its sources, so it never seems derivative. S. Pajot

The Thorn in the Heart

6:45 p.m. March 7 and 5:45 p.m. March 9 at Regal South Beach

Michel Gondry must have been on to us. He knew we'd expect something as imaginative as his last film, The Science of Sleep, or his popular Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So in The Thorn in the Heart (L'Epine Dans le Coeur), he presents an evenhanded documentary about his aunt Suzette, a retired teacher in rural France, and her complicated relationship with her son, Jean-Yves. Juxtaposed between scenes in which Suzette is praised for her skill with schoolchildren, Gondry gives us a fragile Jean-Yves, a grown man still living under his mother's thumb, suffering nervous breakdowns after coming out as gay. Gondry is known for his imaginative visual style, but The Thorn in My Heart is an exercise in restraint. Amanda McCorquodale

City Island

7 p.m. March 12 at the Gusman Center

The Rizzos are an average family — two parents, two kids — who make their home on City Island, an old fishing town in the Bronx. The patriarch, Vince (Andy Garcia), is a New York State corrections officer with dreams of being an actor. His wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), is a beautiful but aging housewife and mother who laments the education she lost when she became pregnant with her daughter, Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido), now college age herself. And then, there's Vinnie (Ezra Miller), a skinny 15-year-old master of the smart-ass remark. The Rizzos live together, eat together, and bicker like hell about everything. Plus, they're all intensely secretive. When City Island works, it's thanks to the strong ensemble cast and writer/director Raymond De Felitta's light touch. Ultimately, City Island is a charming if not entirely realistic movie about a big, messed-up modern family. S. Pajot


7:15 p.m. March 8 at Regal South Beach

9:30 p.m. March 14 at Tower Theater

It would be easy to dismiss Northless (Norteado) as just another film about immigrants attempting to cross the U.S. border. The bulk of the plot is about this, but Northless aims to give us a more realistic and Mexican depiction. It's filled with scenes of silence around dinner tables and the drudgery of daily work. Andres (Harold Torres), a migrant from Oaxaca, fails to cross into America after his coyote deserts him overnight near the California border. Marooned at the immigration office in Tijuana, he finds work with two women who attempt to coerce him into staying in Mexico by taking him on dates and divulging their deepest secrets. Still, he tries to cross several times, culminating in an extremely clever and seemingly absurd plot twist. This is a movie of silences and wide open spaces, shot beautifully by cinematographer Alejandro Cantu. It eschews the fantastic and unrealistic in favor of the realistic and quotidian, right down to the portraits of George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger that beam judgment upon Andres each time he is apprehended by la migra. Dave Landsberger

La Yuma

4 p.m. March 7 at Regal South Beach

7 p.m. March 9 at Tower Theater

On the surface, this debut feature by writer/director Florence Jaugey is about a girl boxer, Yuma (Alma Blanco), struggling to escape the barrios of Managua. She lives in a concrete-floor shack with her often-absent mother, unemployed pedophilic stepdad, teen junkie brother, and two younger siblings. She loves and protects the children but despises the adults. Meanwhile, outside her home, Yuma's street-thug boyfriend, Culebra — whose name means snake — tries to control her, saying: "Women don't box." But Yuma is wild and tough. She continues training and soon starts an affair with Ernesto, a middle-class journalism student at Universidad Centroamericana. La Yuma doesn't dig much beneath the surface, however. Most of the major characters never evolve beyond mere outlines. And although the film runs only 90 minutes, it becomes entangled in a mess of completely unnecessary subplots and side plots. There's a simpler, better movie in there somewhere. S. Pajot

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