The Gasoline Thieves
Official Selection Mexican Feature Film
Dir. Edgar Nito
The Richter Scale says: Why would anyone choose a life that will end up destroying them? Typically, because it is the only option they have, either to survive or get ahead in a world that does not offer many options. The world of organized crime is one that gives great rewards, but also one in which there’s no turning back once a mistake is made. This is what Lalo (Eduardo Banda) a who is hardworking but socially awkward 14-year-old boy, discovers. Lalo wants to impress Ana (Regina Reynoso), a classmate of his who likes iPhones. Lalo believes he must buy one to win her over, but he needs money. When Rulo (Pedro Joaquín) informs him that he could work as a Huachicolero (someone who steals gasoline from the ground to sell it for fairer prices) he starts earning the money to impress Ana, and also help out his mother (Myriam Bravo) and pay Don Gil (Fernando Becerril), an old man who has offered him work in the past to whom he owes money. This work leads Lalo toward a path to tragedy.
Edgar Nito is known as one of the collaborators of the México Bárbaro anthology, and his experience with horror is apparent in his handling of suspense and how crude the world he presents is, but he also shows his talent with naturalness. The script that Nito wrote with Alfredo Mendoza gives these characters a very particular rhythm in the way they talk, be they the kids in the playground or Lalo with Don Gil or even with his mother (who speaks to her son in a very formal manner, which is something that stands out as odd, though it’s probably very common in some places in Guanajuato). This gives the film a voice and is complemented by a tight plot. Everything leads naturally to the next event in the movie, including that ending (which I won’t ruin, except that some viewers will probably be reminded of the ending of a novel by famous American author John Steinbeck), which feels inevitable. Aesthetically, the film favors earthy tones, highlighting the sand in the desert and especially the fire, which becomes a character in the story.
The standout in the cast is veteran actor Fernando Becerril, who internalizes a very surprising complexity in a character that seems to serve a specific function in the story but ends up serving another. Ana is also more complex than a character like her tends to be in movies, since the director and actress make her more superficial than one would expect from such a character and that works in her favor. Lalo for his part falls more into the stereotype of the innocent soul that ends up seduced by this world of crime and wealth, but Eduardo Banda projects an endearing clumsiness, something that makes it clear that Lalo is not very connected with the world around him, which helps him maintain some of that innocence he had when we met him, even when things get out of control. It’s a film that is difficult to talk about, because what it does, it does so impeccably, making it the best example of the kind of movie it is, and it’s also very current to the specific time we’re living right now in Mexico.