“Somos” Review – The Hollywood Reporter


If Netflix Narcos depicts the failures of the War on Drugs and the US-Mexico border crisis through a prism heavily influenced by the films of Martin Scorsese, the streamer’s six-part drama Somos addresses a parallel real-life tragedy through what looks like an inflected lens by John Sayles.

This new version is slower, less sensational and less exciting than Narcos often is, but his approach to the Los Zetas massacre in 2011 in Allende, 54 km south of the Pierdas Negras border station, is very nuanced. It’s much more of a tapestry of a diverse community on the verge of something horrible than a voyeuristic depiction of an atrocity, giving it depth even when parts of its vast ensemble never feel completely. conceived or embodied.


The bottom line

The humanistic texture compensates for awkward lines.

Broadcasting date : Wednesday June 30 (Netflix)

Discard: Jesús Sida, Salvador Montenegro, Jimena Pagaza, Germán Guzmán, Jesús Herrera, Mario Alberto Quiñones, Manuel de Jesús, Óscar Guzmán, Eduardo Humarán, Natalia MartÍnez, Ulises Soto, Jero Medina, Arelí González, Fernando Iliana Sarrañndardo Herrera, Mercedes Arzate, Josué Guerra
Caraly Sánchez

Creator: Jacques Schamus

Somos – the title translates to “We Are” – was adapted from Ginger Thompson’s ProPublica report by Oscar-nominated writer-producer James Schamus and Mexican scribes Monika Revilla and Fernanda Melchor. Thompson’s Report, if you haven’t read it, is an astonishing oral story recounting the events of March 2011, when a small army linked to the powerful Zetas cartel passed through Allende, destroying homes and businesses, kidnapping and killing citizens in still undetermined number. it can be counted in the hundreds. The story places responsibility for the massacre directly at the feet of a failed DEA operation in Texas, although other reports have pointed to a web of causation, the horribly inevitable consequence of cartel seizures, local corruption. and blunders by the police.

Thompson’s report is full of voices and stories of the real people involved, but for what are presumed to be legal reasons, Schamus and his team have built an ensemble essentially from scratch, with very obviously fictional versions of the key characters other characters inspired by details from Thompson’s story, if not literal people. As if to restore some of the authenticity lost in this fiction, about half of the cast of Somos is made up of non-professional actors, a casting strategy that really gives the scenes an unforced basis, although it’s very, very easy to tell the professional from the amateurs.

The series begins with cartel henchmen gathering weapons in a prison and starting what would become the massacre, before going back for nearly five hours of prelude, spanning at least half a dozen storylines. variable efficiency, none being clearly a priority.

There is the Linares family, led by Patriarch Isidro (Fernando Larrañaga), powerful local herders whose lives are turned upside down by the encroachment of the cartel and the return of the prodigal son Benjamin (Jero Medina), who bears a heavy debt to the wrong people. There’s the gently innocent Paquito (Jesús Sida), living with his wife Aracely (Natalia Martinez), their baby, and Aracely’s mother, Doña Chayo (Mercedes Hernandez), whose position as the owner of a local food cart. gives him eyes all over town. There are high school football teammates and pals Nancy (Jimena Pagaza), Tom (Mario Alberto Quiñones) and Armando (Jesús Herrera), whose lives are complicated when the two of them start dating and with the arrival of Samuel (Ulises Soto), a newborn baby whose powerful father (Antonio López Torres) has connections with unsavory elements. There are sisters Irene (Iliana Donatlán) and Erika (Arelí González), shipping tycoon Hector (Armando Silva), as well as residents of a local brothel linked to trafficking operations.

Meanwhile, in the United States, we meet DEA agents Carlos (Martin Peralta) and Stephanie (Kerry Ardra), who are perplexed to discover that two crucial members of Operation Zetas – named Z-40 and Z- 42 – have permanent residences outside this city without an account. They learn that a Dallas-area drug middleman (Joshua Guerra’s Oscar) may carry more weight than they previously thought.

Somos can be broken down into scenarios that will trigger the eventual slaughter and scenarios that the eventual slaughter will truncate – scenarios that exist for plot reasons and scenarios that exist for characterization reasons. Scenarios that exist for characterization reasons tend to be glimpses of slices of life in this Sayles tradition; they are low-key, sincere and, if we are completely honest, can appear as checkboxes representing certain perspectives that need to be acknowledged. These were my favorite parts of the show, and I appreciated that Schamus and his fellow writers were willing to just sit back and watch a teenage love triangle unfold or capture the tense details of a young man’s day-to-day. -child trying to find his purpose while living with his seemingly disapproving mother-in-law and his more mature wife. Treating Allende as a city of dreamers, some ambitious and some more intimate, on the verge of being completely crushed by malicious forces, delivers one heartbreaking beat after another and these vignettes contained many of my performances. favorites in the series, including those of Hernandez, Sida and Pagaze.

Is that a bit manipulative on the scale given that we know what’s coming up for much of the city? Sure, but directors Alvaro Curiel and Mariana Chenillo, as well as cinematographer Ignacio Prieto, are committed to these unfamiliar stories and faces, and to treating Allende as a place worth protecting – or, more seriously, a place that has been failed by those entrusted to protect it.

The series is less successful when it focuses on the plot. The stuff in the DEA office in the United States is completely mechanical. Agents Carlos and Stéphanie are dimensionless and their scenes offer no suspense or glimpse of a flawed process. That’s a bad position for writers: you feel the nobility of not wanting this Mexican tragedy to be mocked by an American storyline with recognizable English-speaking actors, bumping up against a source article titled “How the United States Started a Massacre in Mexico.

You want causation and you want to blame poorly managed US intelligence assets without giving the public any concern? Mission accomplished, I guess. Unfortunately, the cartel-adjacent parts of Mexican history aren’t particularly good either. Cesar de Torres is too simplistic and threatening and Benjamin de Medina is too simplistically pathetic, and when part of the series goes to a dingy private prison, it’s something that comes out of a TV show and not out of reality, little doesn’t matter how real these prisons are. There is so much that is only superficial about the intrigue-focused part of the show, the standard cable / streaming bogs depictions of the build-up straining towards rape, torture, and adversity.

Fortunately, at no time Somos never become too weighted towards the awkwardly plotted side. The how and why of what happened in Allende is important, but less so than the sprawling experience of the people to whom the very bad thing happened. There is bloody violence here, but it’s really the story of an older woman pushing a snack cart through unpaved streets, a ranch foreman trying to come to terms with his gay son, a young woman looking for love and respect as a football kicker.

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