CLFF Review: Under My Nails

Under My Nails  Puerto Rico | 2011 | 100 min. | Director: Arí Maniel Cruz | Genre: Thriller Spanish with subtitles

Thursday, April 19, 2012, 6:45 pm at Landmark Theatres | Saturday, April 21, 2012, 7:00 pm at Landmark Theatres

The human animal is prone to many strange but natural vices. Sexual desires and curiosities that come from that which is most carnal figure into our life so much that whole structures are based on that reality. The reason Under My Nails is such a raw and apt movie is because it relates the details of those two realities in such a frank manner.

What it also relates is desperation and fear. In the two realities of America, that of the immigrant and nativist establishment, one must find a strange balance between two contradicting terms. What is at play, alongside the sexual references, is the delicate relationship that is forced between distinct types of Hispanicism or Latinism that exist between the communities that many outside of the Hispanophonie regard as the same. Despite our extremely different geographical, linguistic and cultural specifics, within us there lies a struggle to come together, even if those outside of our realm cannot decipher which is which.

Women in this realm, IRL, are often regarded as mothers and nurturers in the most romantic sense. But they are also breadwinners and killers and lovers and that strange contradiction is one that is so emblazoned on our shared cultural psyche that at times it hurts to disregard any kind of sex as weaker. What separates us is that which adds to the volume of our presence. As cryptic as that sounds, it’s a truth that most often gets left behind.

Unrequited love runs rampant in cinema, but unrequited justice is one that gets restricted air time…but not so much here. The story of crossed lovers (no need for stars; everything happens on the ground) is one that, while it may not be directly relatable, can be seen in those sensational news stories that we have become, as an urban populus, so detached from. That we as regular citizens are invincible to the notion that that violent verb can never happen to us is dumb. At any capacity we can be finished and this movie shows it in a way that still conjures up the most sensual of apprehensions.

Kisha Tikina Burgos delivers a fantastic main character (Solimar) if at times dialectally contrived. I was not immediately convinced of her code switching but then again, in a film with such a complicated rhetoric, it did not defer from the main story at hand. The antagonist played by Ivan Camilo (Roberto) was all parts sexy, rude, intrusive and encompassing. The real standouts of the movie were Solimar’s best friend Antonio Pantojas who played an (what I imagine) aging drag queen and Rosie Berrido, the mother of Roberto. Pantojas played his role as the nurturing adoptive father/mother in an incredible and sincere light that left you waiting for his screen time. Berridos delivered passive aggressiveness and aggressive aggressiveness in a way that left you frightened, intrigued and always wanting more. These two, as supporting characters, were not ultimately a huge part of the script but they’ll leave you with a huge opinion.

This story of thin walls and even thinner circumstances leaves something to be desired, some sort of conclusion to a story that needs an ending. However, in its lack of an end exists ultimatums to questions that one needs not to be answered lest one encounters them his/herself.