From its opening line of Once Upon A Time… to illustrator Ben Judd’s colourful universe, or the vastness of the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley in California where this Mexican-based, Spanish language movie is filmed, everything about The Devil’s Son leaves one feeling overwhelmed with its richness in storytelling. A Mexican fable that dabbles as much into their socio-cultural setup as in the universality of love reigns supreme, this 18:10 minutes long film has something to offer everyone, regardless of their personal preference.
Writer-director Ernesto M. Sandoval leaves no stone unturned to make the universe of The Devil’s Son believable. There’s the making of a hero, the victory of the good versus the evil and the all-encompassing lessons on love, both maternal and otherwise; but all delivered with such ingenuity of unexpected spins to the plotline, that the film hardly makes for a leisure-time watch. It compels one to ponder long after the curtain falls. The film opens to a prelude to Pedro’s (Eduardo Roman) life. We are made aware of his selfish father who barters him to the devil for a more prosperous life; we know of his mother who dies protecting him from the devil’s claim and we know all this through the eyes of colourist Emre Ökten and illustrator Judd’s creation. It’s wholesome, it’s believable and it sets the tone right when the screen finally lights up to the vast expanse of the Mexican ranch.
Pedro whose unacceptance of the devil as it rightfully represents to him, his mother’s death, leaves him accursed – of unrequited love. He remains the central figure to the story, around whom revolves all else, like in the case of most hero myths. Roman whose portrayal of Pedro is both restrained and impactful adds soul to his character. As we see the story fast forward to 25 years, the now-adult Pedro is a pained man and Roman plays him so, effortlessly, convincingly. When he talks about his horse Anita as something he values most in life, one nods in belief, as he wakes up to the loneliness of his maledict life, the vastness of his ranch seeming more as engulfing than liberating, one is forced to feel sorry for him, for the tragedy that has come to define him and his choices.
Enter Rosa, played by the supremely talented Malili Dib, a past love that refused to shine on an already dark life, things go for a toss. Pedro, now torn between his agonising love for this woman and the hopelessness of the situation, makes for the second half of the film, carrying with him, by now all the hallmarks of a hero. A victim of domestic abuse, Rosa comes with her own curse. As she enters his ranch, battered and bleeding, there’s a part in us that aches to help her as much as Pedro. Here, it’s to Dib’s credit, that Rosa doesn’t get reduced to just another character, a mere plot addition meant to propel Pedro’s character forward. In fact, she brings as much depth to the story as Pedro, if not more. From the makeup (Alex Pahl Skinner) used to Rickie Lee Kroell whose music is just right for the screenplay, never upstaging the scenes, the film is as much an audial treat as visual.
Without giving away any spoilers, but promising a rewarding experience, the film has enough substance in it to be made into a feature-length film. Emre Ökten, who is also the director of photography in The Devil’s Son, lets the camera pick the nuances of the story. It stays long after Pedro’s moment is passed, but just enough to leave the right impact, it lingers across the panorama and sways as the characters do. In short, even if the film were to be sans any dialogues, the camera alone would suffice. The Devil’s Son is breathtaking, soulful, even magical, and it offers layered lessons, much like all folklores do.#ShortFilmReview: The Devil's Son: This is what fairytales are made of. Click To Tweet
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The Devil’s Son: Mind-Boggling, Rich Magical Fable