Prayers for the Stolen on Netflix, an Exceptional Coming-of-Age Drama Set in a Cartel-run Mexican Town

Netflix Movies Prayer for the Stolen (Noche de Fuego) is director Tatiana Huezo’s first dramatic work, and she exploits similar territory to her well-received 2017 documentary. Tempestad, in which she details the experiences of two women whose lives have been torn apart by Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. Because the Praying, she adapted the novel by Jennifer Clement about three girls in rural Mexico living in a small mountain town – where girls like them often go missing.

Gist: Ana (Ana Cristina Ordonez Gonzalez) and her mother Rita (Mayra Batalla) dug a shallow hole with their bare hands, and Ana lay in it to see if it would fit. This is where Ana will hide if anyone comes looking for her. They live in San Miguel in the state of Jalisco, on a savannah near a mountain that is occasionally shaken by explosions, the work of a quarry. People seem to work in quarries or, like Rita, in the fields where they chop and get opium sap, which is probably processed to make heroin. Sometimes the sound of helicopter wings can be heard in the distance and people rush inside – they pour rain on what locals call “poison”, most likely toxic pesticides .

Eight-year-old Ana and her mother live in poverty, with rickety stone walls and cement floors; She lay on the bed and watched a large scorpion crawling up the wall. There is a hill nearby where local residents gather with their cell phones, because that might be the only spot to get good reception. They called Ana’s father who had left to get a job and send the money back, but he no longer answered. Ana attends a school where teachers make crude drawings and spiritual lectures in lieu of textbooks, which is certainly an expensive luxury. She’s best friends with Maria (Blanca Itzel Perez) and Paula (Camila Gaal), and possibly Juana, who disappeared one day, and all that’s left of her is a slipper in the mud and her bicycle, which is left alongside her house.

Ana and Paula’s mother takes them to the barbershop in town, where they cry as their hair is cut into short, boyish styles. Rita says it’s because they carry lice, but that’s a pretty obvious lie. Maria didn’t have to go through the unpleasant experience – she had a cleft lip, making her untenable to being a target of syndicate sex traffickers. A few years will pass before the doctors arrive, escorted by the army, to deliver long overdue medicine and treatment to the locals, and Maria (Giselle Barrera Sanchez), 13 years old, Surgery to repair the roof of the mouth. Not long after, she also gets a haircut to match Ana (Marya Membreno) and Paula’s (Alejandra Camacho). They were in the salon with their mother when the sound of the truck reminded them to hide under the table; Army soldiers cowered as corporate soldiers roared across the town, firing machine guns into the air, asserting their might. The girls wobble on the precipice of innocence and maturity – they watch Maria’s brother ride a horse, attend a dance, frolic in the woods. Ana even kept a pet scorpion in a plastic soft drink bottle. But their free life is like borrowed time.

Photo: Netflix

What movies will remind you of?: Pair Prayer for the Stolen with another Mexican coming-of-age film, Fernando Frias de la Parra’s I’m not here anymore, also on Netflix.

Performances worth watching: Batella stands out as a real woman survivor. She is a single mother under the constraints of existence, and a portrait of psychological fatigue.

Memorable dialogue: “You know what to do already.” – Rita guides Ana when they hear SUVs rumbling on the road

Gender and Skin: Not available.

Our Take: Huezo frequently holds the camera still, lingering on his subject to illustrate the insecurity that is quietly creeping into the frame like a deadly invisible aura. The peaceful, joyful scenes of everyday life – mostly the lives of children like Ava – play out in an unusual, sometimes poetic way. Rita and the adults sensed the fear of flying, and they looked tired, burdened for the sake of their daughter’s quick innocence. The budding sex of girls is like a curse. Huezo’s five-year story leap is a bold one, requiring her three main roles to be cast twice, and all six young actresses to be characters born with a sense of devotion. Impressions on camera and tacit understanding of the director’s realistic mission.

Prayer for the Stolen is a drama of tension and story of the era, engaging in the authenticity and profound artistry of the cinematography. Some scenes are purely textural – the men at the quarry are covered in dust after an explosion, the scene of an ant transporting a dead butterfly across the forest floor. Others emphasize character development in subtle ways: The teacher is frequently threatened for scenes like the one where Leonardo (Memo Vallegas) turns a chair upside down and invites Paula to sit on it; She stepped up, turned it upright, and he said, “A lot of things in this town are turned upside down. But Paula was brave enough to go ahead and change something.” Ana is inspired by this moment, and then, she shows amazing precision shooting when Maria Margarito’s brother (Julian Guzman Giron), a high-ranking corporate employee, lets her use it. try his 9mm. So there may be some overwhelming hope amid the pain in this story.

Our call: INSTRUCTIONS IT. Prayer for the Stolen is a gripping and suspenseful drama, superbly directed and acted. It is considered an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

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