It’s about a young boy named Daniel, played by Julian Brand, who is sent by his mother to stay with his uncle Robert in a small Mexican town.
On the bus en route there, Daniel is visibly displeased. He picks on the bus window’s film sticker absent-mindedly, looking all nervous.
It’s obvious from their first encounter that the relationship between them is chilly. He looks burdened upon seeing him on his doorstep, he looks reluctant for having to stay.
Uncle Robert gets Daniel to work at his motor shop.
At 04:52 when his uncle scolds Daniel for accidentally spilling oil (he gets distracted by a girl who passes by), the expression on his face is that of fear and indignance at the same time. It looks like he’s ready to throw hands but too scared to do it. He also still craves his respect because as he gives him an instruction to run some errand, Daniel’s gaze follows his every move intently.
After that, he goes on the errand but gets lost. When he arrives, he gets scolded again for being late. At 07:50 you can tell how differently he looks at this stranger who tells him off vs how he looked at his uncle.
Julian always has an intense gaze, but while he wears a begrudging expression with his uncle, he’s mostly ashamed and intimidated by this guy.
When he returns to his uncle’s workshop, he gets scolded for the third time that day and this time, he pushes back. The exchange is tense and both actors give it their all. Noticeably, the indignant look is back. And here we get why : he says that uncle owed him and mom (something we don’t know of).
As always, your acting partner contributes a lot to your own performance, and this dynamic between the uncle and nephew is fraught with the right amount of tension. The fight feels like something you’d find in everyday life.
Daniel wanders around town and gets cornered by a bunch of local delinquents. Thankfully, he manages to escape. Later, he tries to call his mom but the reception is so bad. He looks so lost. At 13:22 he blinks rapidly many many times as the call is breaking up.
With nowhere to go, he scurries home to uncle.
At 13:46 Daniel’s just standing quietly, waiting for the door to be opened, but his pose is anticipatory. He’s swallowing hard, his breath is uneven, his fists are clenched as if bracing for a fight. But interestingly, when his uncle finally opens the door and welcomes him in, he scratches the side of his face, at a loss for words.
Uncle and nephew then sit down to clear the air. Daniel expresses his remorse for coming back late. His uncle acknowledges that he’s clueless about what to do with him, he also admits that he’s in the wrong for lashing out earlier.
There are so many regrets in the air. The uncle seems to carry the weight of a terrible past, his honesty making Daniel slowly open up to him.
All of these are played with quiet restraint, no hysterics or overt melodrama. Very natural. At 14:42, we can only see half his face, but Daniel’s eyes are full of childlike hope.
It’s quite heartbreaking – Daniel actually yearns to get close to him.
And then true enough, the scene ends with uncle offering him food – something adults do to appease children. Daniel covers his face with his palm, his fatigue melts away as relief that the long day has finally ended takes over.
Sometime later, it appears their relationship has gotten better. At 16:09 Daniel’s face appears more relaxed.
He shows curiosity, wearing a slight smile while chatting with his uncle. His uncle also walks casually, putting his hands in his pockets. Daniel learns a bit more about his uncle, even teasing him for his playful banter with a local grocery lady.
He meets the local girl from earlier and this time, flirts a little with her (16:58). At first I thought they don’t understand each other but apparently they do. Daniel’s flirting face here feels different from Julian’s other works. Here, the interaction feels more innocent and adorable, he even makes crinkly, smiling eyes at her.
We also learn that Daniel was sent to the village because he ran into trouble. No wonder he begrudged his uncle earlier, perhaps he saw what he could’ve become if he’d continued down the same path.
But now that he knows him better, Daniel actually sees a good path forward.
Knowing uncle has a crush on the grocery lady, he invites her for dinner. There’s a playful glint in his eyes as he orchestrates this.
And so, the surprise dinner preparation is underway. Daniel fumbles around the kitchen preparing the meal (21:10).
Him banging pots, making a mess, and not being quite adept in general makes it more endearing.
At 23:04, seeing he’s successfully pulled off uncle and the grocery lady’s date night, he wears a look of pride – smiling, then grinning, then a small nod to himself. He did it! Love the gradual change of expression here – it’s subtle but very natural.