From his opening shot, Alexis Gambis Son of monarchs is a captivating thought-provoking film. The first image that the public sees, even before meeting the protagonist Mendel (Tenoch Huerta), is a close-up of a chrysalis that is carefully dissected, almost lovingly, in a pool of transparent liquid. This moment shapes the entire emotional experience of the film: an uncomfortable clash between science and spirituality, the mundane and the sacred, precariously balanced on the still, hunched shoulders of a man struggling to reconcile his current position in life with the demons of his life. last. Written and directed by the French-Venezuelan film director (and biologist) Alexis Gambis, Son of monarchs is an expertly crafted visual experience that weaves together disparate themes and images.
The man who cuts the butterfly’s cocoon is Mendel, a scientist working to identify and isolate the gene responsible for the distinctive color of the monarch’s wings. Specifically, he is involved in researching the optix gene, identifying how it determines color and patterns, and finding ways to manipulate the isolated gene (by turning blue what should be orange scales on the butterfly’s wings). It’s a slightly controversial topic – at one point, a character compares it to Dr. Frankenstein’s research in Mary Shelley’s classic novel, but for Mendel, it’s a deeply contradictory work – his grandmother instilled in him a reverence for monarch butterflies, they would migrate to the Michoacán forests that surround their hometown in droves each year. Mendel may have devoted his professional life to studying these delicate creatures, but in doing so he destroys countless numbers. It is this internal conflict that drives the narrative.
The film lacks a clear plot, but instead offers a story told through vignettes that offer a glimpse into the inner life of the protagonist. Mendel, a Mexican biologist who works in New York City, is an outsider, both among his peers in the United States and in Angangueo, Mexico. The scientist clearly doesn’t go home often, possibly because of the bad blood between him and his brother, Simón (Noé Hernández); however, it also seems out of place in New York City. He has become too dependent on his friendship with fellow Mexican scientist Pablo (Juan Ugarte), and as a single and never married middle-aged man, he seems reluctant to form meaningful relationships or take root in his new home.
Played gently by Huerta, Mendel seems a bit awkward wherever he goes, often donning and doffing various social masks as he plays the roles of partner, uncle, and carefree boyfriend. Huerta delivers a beautifully nuanced performance in Son of monarchs; the actor imbues each moment, each gaze, with a depth of meaning and feeling. Although he speaks softly, Huerta’s eyes are bold: they brim with emotion in one scene and then reflect the dull glow of a traumatized mind in the next. As Mendel goes through his transformative journey, he behaves slightly differently, slowly ignoring his “masks” and allowing his true self to emerge. Scene after scene, Huerta is a pleasure to watch.
Son of monarchs it is a daring movie. Gambis maintains thematic tension throughout the story, constantly dragging Mendel between two very different worlds. The colors orange and blue are a dominant motif that represents him, demonstrating the contrast of Mendel’s spiritual and secular life. Thematically, Mendel’s inner turmoil extends to offer a glimpse into contemporary society: the inherent violence of scientific study, very intentionally juxtaposed with environmental devastation, all done for the sake of progress. Son of monarchs It does not openly condemn these actions, but rather suggests that humanity and Mother Nature must find a way to coexist. It’s a mature choice that takes a more pragmatic approach to environmentalism, without embezzling people, like Simon, whose circumstances force them to work in occupations that they know harm the local environment.
Son of monarchs it is a visual delight, adopting a truncated, almost dreamlike rhythm, complementing the various surreal shots of Mendel’s memories and nightmares. Interspersed between scenes are several scientific images from the monarch butterfly research, presented for artistic effect. The film goes along the lines of being artistically indulgent without feeling pretentious or gratuitous; Nevertheless, Son of monarchs It is a challenging film, and no doubt some audiences will be put off by its psychological drama and visual storytelling. The flexible structure of the plot adds an additional barrier that may put off some viewers: this is a movie that must be actively watched and savored; For those simply looking to entertain themselves, the work required to watch will not be worth the effort. Moviegoers, on the other hand, will rejoice at the lush visuals and daring staging in Sons of kings – and will certainly be on the lookout for the next Gambis project.