Soy Nero (I Am Nero)Berlin Film Festival 2016
Many parts of Soy Nero (I Am Nero) are necessarily, though not uninterestingly, straightforward. What is remarkable is that the film is cleanly divided into two separate halves, which are tonally different and yet complement each other perfectly. The first half depicts Nero (Johnny Ortiz) as he attempts to vault the minimal and yet daunting wall that runs along sections of the US/Mexican border so that he can begin a new life on the American side.
His American dream is largely a deception. This deception is accentuated by his brother Jesus (Ian Casselberry), who seems to live a charmed life in Beverly Hills. This falsehood is rather obvious from the moment it’s presented, and so it’s odd that the otherwise savvy Nero doesn’t want to question these miraculous circumstances. Ignorance can be bliss.
The abrupt shift comes at the halfway point, where Nero is seen serving in the US army in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. He’s joined the army to take advantage of a green card scheme that might allow him to be granted US citizenship after his service. Ortiz gives Nero a cautious charm that occasionally turns to whininess, particularly during the US-set sequences.
The second half has flashes of brilliance that turn Soy Nero, rather surprisingly, into a low-key war movie. Nero knows that he’s only there to get that elusive green card, so he doesn’t ponder the overall reasons for the military being there in the first place. Some exchanges between characters go on for far too long, and are not as insightful or entertaining as director Rafi Pitts seems to think.
Soy Nero is likely to find significant critical acclaim and some commercial appeal when it receives a wider release. Some parts of it feel awfully familiar, but it’s still an immersive take on a young man’s search for his particular American dream.
Soy Nero (I Am Nero) does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Soy Nero here: