This is the second Mexican film I’ve seen within the span of a month, and it’s yet another adaptation of a body of work that is deeply culturally significant. If Hurricane Season was raw and gritty, I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me is absurd and humorous. The film follows a young man, Juan Pablo Villalobos (also the author of the actual novel), as he moves from Mexico to Barcelona on a scholarship, only to be sucked into a vicious world of crime and illogicality. Interestingly, the thugs (of said crime world) are playing around with the man’s little heart in order to catch a big fish. I do feel that if I reveal anything further, we’d be in spoiler territory, so that’s where I’m going to leave the summary. Personally, I watched this film with no prior information, not even having seen the trailer, which, in hindsight, wasn’t the best decision for this particular film. I haven’t read Juan Pablo’s near-perfect novel (according to the internet), but I will admit I found it a little bit difficult to follow the story, specifically right at the start of the film, which absolutely threw me off. I believe that out of all cinematic genres, humor is the most subjective. What one might find offensive may be a dream scenario for another.
Keeping that in mind, I Don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me is objectively a fantastic movie. It has a well-paced story that moves from mystery to mystery from multiple points of view, is beautifully shot, well written, and even incorporates some life truths within its ludicrous tale, yet I found myself not so impressed. I think it might be my big bias against anything that is primarily comedic that made me almost detest this film. While the dialogue is really intriguing, it oftentimes comes across as extremely pretentious and over-the-top, even if it’s students of literature spewing out their complicated worldviews. Additionally, I think there’s a huge cultural context in not only the subject matter but also the way the film is presented, which, for me, came across as quite convoluted. This doesn’t mean I will dismiss the fantastic performances of actors Dario Yazbek Bernal, Natalia Solián, and Anna Castillo, who deliver priceless performances that merge comedic timing with thrilling moments of sheer chaos.
Juan Pablo is a pitiful protagonist. At every step of the way, it seems he digs himself further into a hole of his own making. Still, there’s a very likeable quality in both the actor and the character that is enticing enough to keep you watching. We see the movie from the perspective of Juan as well as his girlfriend, Valentina. Natalia Solián’s Valentina is brutal, and though sometimes she comes across as a little bit crass and despicable, you want to root for her and understand her side of things. Her conversations with her sister are especially fun. Yes, the film is a commentary on a lot of Mexican issues and presented in a very creative manner, yet it didn’t quite hit the mark for me personally.
Dark satire is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do tend to avoid it like the bubonic plague, which is probably why, from the start, I was a little bit uninterested in what this film has to offer. If that’s something you enjoy, though, I would definitely urge you to actually watch it. On the other hand, if, like me, you’re only amused by your own wit (which may be unimpressive to anyone else), don’t bother watching this. I did manage to watch the film entirely with a straight face, not only because I didn’t quite figure out what was meant to be funny, but also because I didn’t quite understand a lot of the jokes. I suppose since we’re already here, there’s no shame in admitting one’s own stupidity, which possibly hindered the outcome, i.e., this review.
Fernando Frias creates an immersive experience, and it almost feels like we’re in an alternate Barcelona, one that’s come alive from a novel rather than the real bustling city. Visually, the film is striking, and the score definitely adds a lot of value. There’s a very eerie and bizarre feeling to the film right from the get-go, which is very befitting of the title itself. Despite its tedious nature, I’d say this film is marvelously ambitious and definitely has a lot to say about Mexican cinema and what it has to offer. That alone could be reason enough to give it a chance.
Ultimately, I’m left as confused with my reaction to this film as I am with its concluding act. While my mind suggests I appreciate what it has to offer, I’d be betraying my feelings if I were to say this was a great film. There’s a baffling quality to the film that is quite exciting, but if I were asked to watch it again, I wouldn’t. On the other hand, I am very curious about Juan Pablo’s work, and although oftentimes a lot is lost in translation, I would definitely be willing to give some of his work a go based on how solid the source material of this film might’ve been. There is a lot left unanswered in this film, which is another reason I particularly didn’t like the end. The film is filled with sexual references, nudity, profanity, and violence. Before I can confuse you any further than my own chaotic mind, I’d give this film a solid 3 out of 5 stars because of the sheer mess it’s caused in my brain. I’ll definitely be giving Mexican cinema a go more often now.