“El Rezador” (“The Preacher”)
Letterboxd (4/10), Imdb.com (4/10)
Many religious experiences that can’t be readily explained are simply chalked up as “holy mysteries.” And, comparably speaking, as for many of the cryptic plot developments that emerge in writer-director Tito Jara’s second feature outing, such events simply appear to be passed off as narrative mysteries. This story of a religious con man (Andrés Crespo) who convinces the parents (Emilia Ceballos, Carlos Valencia) of an allegedly gifted miracle child (Renata Jara) to set up a business based on their daughter’s supposed healing powers starts out credibly enough but soon falls back on clichéd plot threads, eventually deteriorating into a muddled mess that’s virtually indecipherable. Every few minutes, new developments arise seemingly out of left field, many of which are left significantly unresolved, almost as if these script ideas were casually thrown together, the result of which is some kind of incomprehensible narrative stew. The picture’s hodgepodge of subplots covers everything from the operation of the business to the veracity of the child’s gifts to the health of the con man to the marital fidelity of the parents and even a few supposedly supernatural twists that are sprinkled in essentially as mystical throw-aways. Perhaps this lack of clarity is attributable to cultural concepts that are somehow lost in translation, but I’d more likely suspect that it’s more a result of poor writing and a lack of diligent script revision after the initial draft. Given the prevalence of religion in Latin American culture, the description of this film made it sound like an intriguing watch. Instead, it comes across as a trite, largely unintelligible pile of clutter that’s not worth the time.