Thursday, June 13, 2024

“SIMON OF THE MOUNTAIN”

THE STORY – Seeking change, 21-year-old Simon finds purpose by befriending two disabled children who teach him to embrace life’s joys. Together, they navigate a world not designed for them, inventing their own rules for love and happiness.

THE CAST – Lorenzo Ferro, Kiara Supini & Pehuen Pedre

THE TEAM – Federico Luis (Director/Writer), Tomas Murphy & Agustin Toscano (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 98 Minutes


It’s a great shame that society will often turn a blind eye towards those whose daily lives do not comfortably fit within the established framework of what is considered normality. There is a rigid structure in place that seems to always determine who has value in the broader spectrum, which then sees fit to regulate whose perspective has enough value that is worthy of exploration. It’s a great shame that such archaic thinking still exists today because it eliminates entire communities filled with complex individuals with rich stories to tell from their own experiences. It’s no secret that those who live with disabilities exist in a world that imagines them as invisible, silently suffering from ailments that most want to brush aside and never once contemplate. “Simon and the Mountain” places itself firmly in this often forgotten viewpoint, and its analysis can often reach profound commentary.

The main protagonist here is the titular Simon (Lorenzo Ferro), a young man who happens to one day come across a group of people who have developmental disabilities. However, it becomes very clear that this isn’t a gathering of people who can’t lead their lives with any sense of independence. They are intuitive of the world around them and have a hunger for exploration. Simon becomes fast friends with Pehuén (Pehuén Pedre), a de facto ringleader who often finds himself getting into trouble. He invites Simon back to the facility that watches over them, guiding him on mannerisms and speech patterns that will convince the staff he belongs there. Simon does exhibit signs of his own arrested development, but it’s unclear if he actually suffers from this malady. What is clear is that he finds kinship with these outsiders and their steadfast determination to pursue the joys out of life despite the disadvantages that have been handed to them.

There is something quite audacious about how director Federico Luis captures this community. At times, one may feel a sense of unease at witnessing such explicit and disturbing activities being committed by those who may not fully understand their consequences; however, that always feels like the specific intention of the storytelling. The people seen here will act out in frustrating and unsettling ways, but it comes from a genuine place of curiosity. Luis showcases a spotlight on people who are not usually afforded the opportunity to explore their own complicated desires in a meaningful way. He paints an intimate portrait, finely textured with details that give insight into their struggles but also the excitement that comes with a lust for novel experiences. There’s also a valuable discussion shown about the ways in which this community fully acknowledges how the rest of society views them, constantly exploiting this sympathy to gain small favors and avoid consequences. It’s a challenging objective meant to provoke an audience into re-contextualizing their preconceived notions. It’s a fascinating endeavor that leaves one enthralled by such an examination.

The narrative Luis created with co-writers Tomas Murphy and Autustín Toscano is mostly engaging, but not without its faults. The vast array of characters they introduce ultimately ranges in how compelling their personal stories are, and that inevitably leads to some sections not being as riveting. There are many sections that can feel tedious and meandering, meant to give greater context to this reality, but end up being a laborious effort instead. However, one does appreciate the attempt to fill in many of these details and offer a more expansive view of the daily activities of this band of misfits. The results are inconsistent regarding their overall effectiveness, but how nuance is derived from this probe is worthy of exhibition. The ways in which topics of sexuality are particularly revelatory, realizing that such a common form of emotional expression is not absent from these persons. The thematic weight is of greater value than the specific plot mechanics, but one is engrossed all the same.

Ferro brings an interesting quality to this role, an intriguing aura, as he is the only professional actor in the group of patients seen at the facility. He provides a stoic anchor to the piece as a somewhat mysterious figure whose own mental diagnosis remains ambiguous. Yet, his curiosity is displayed in an alluring sentiment, conveying deep psychology to a man urgently seeking a place of belonging in a landscape that otherwise ignores his feelings. It’s a captivating turn that is equally matched by Pedre, who communicates a naturalism that is incredibly absorbing. How he navigates a layered emotional state, constantly at odds with the elation, rage, and fear that can overtake him, is a powerful portrayal. It’s a great reminder of the full range that exists within this community, and his performance is magnificently showcased. Another great asset to this ensemble is Kiara Supini, who plays a romantic interest for Simon. Not only is she able to have endearing chemistry with Ferro, but she also represents a refreshing outlook on the human drives that many are unwilling to see in those with such afflictions. She breathes life into this role that is beautifully rendered on screen.

What makes “Simon of the Mountain” such a unique presentation is its commitment to be an uncomfortable confrontation for those who have not previously engaged with such an outlook. The film chooses to dive headfirst into an environment that has consistently been brushed to the side and emotionally neutered. Yet here, those aspirations are fully embraced for the messy and convoluted ambitions they can be. The tactile filmmaking emphasizes this point, as does the host of enticing performances. While the narrative can falter through some stalled momentum, the canvas laid out is still wholly arresting. What is witnessed is not always an easy watch, but what is communicated is an elegant observation of a community that deserves recognition.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Showcases a welcomed complexity in a nicely textured examination of an ostracized community. The filmmaking presents an engaging portrait with captivating performances, illuminating a forgotten section of society with a detailed and valuable commentary.

THE BAD - The narrative can sometimes get quite tedious, causing the momentum to stall and the pacing to be laborious to get through.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best International Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Showcases a welcomed complexity in a nicely textured examination of an ostracized community. The filmmaking presents an engaging portrait with captivating performances, illuminating a forgotten section of society with a detailed and valuable commentary.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The narrative can sometimes get quite tedious, causing the momentum to stall and the pacing to be laborious to get through.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"SIMON OF THE MOUNTAIN"