Peyote (2013) is Omar Flores Sarabia’s first feature length movie. Set in San Luis Potosi, the movie covers 24 hours in the lives of two late teen-aged boys who meet one day and decide to take a journey to Real de Catorce in order to find the eponymous drug. With a premise like that, one could be excused for thinking that the movie would be a stoner comedy or road movie. But neither of the boys seems truly interested in the potential of the drugs and they probably wouldn’t know what to do if they found the plant. They also don’t have enough adventures influenced by the people they meet on their way to categorize the effort as a road movie. In fact, with the exception of one souvenir vendor, the boys don’t speak with anyone else on-screen.
There are only two cast members.Joe Diazzi plays Pablo, a well off boy who has the day off from school. Carlos Luque is Marco, a much poorer boy who spends his days idly hanging out in the park. When they meet for the first time, they aren’t friends or even acquaintances. Pablo admits late in the film that he has seen Marco hanging around the park and meant to speak with him, but such is is the extent of their friendship. After a short lunch together, Marco convinces Pablo to try Peyote and that the only place to get some is in Real.
So why go on a trip with a stranger? Journeys usually mean something in film; journeys with strangers especially so. As more is revealed about the characters, I think we can piece together why each of them went to Real to look for a drug that neither of them knows how to find. Both Pablo and Marco are lonely each in his own way, and they need the companionship. But as more is revealed about the characters, it becomes clear why they might need each other.
On a day when school is closed, Pablo doesn’t have anyone to hang out with. Pablo looks and behaves like he might be a bit of a nerd – with his Captain Marvel T-Shirt and anime action figures. While those interests are a bit unusual, they aren’t so unusual that one couldn’t find young people who share those interests. His exile from his peers might be self-imposed. However, Marco may be on to something when he mocks that Pablo’s parents don’t really want to be around him or they would have taken him along with them to the beach that day. Pablo noticeably bristles at that accusation.
Pablo is constantly recording with his digital camera, and his attachment to the camera is a bigger issue than a devotion to comic book characters. Not knowing what to shoot, he trains his lens on everything. He has an online girlfriend with whom he has a date that evening for what would be his first sexual encounter. But he isn’t interested in her enough to keep the engagement; he would rather go off to shoot footage in Real. Later, Pablo admits that his camera use is one of the sources of friction between himself and his parents.
Unlike Pablo, Marco has things he wants to record, but no means to record them. Marco is quietly grieving for his father, who died about two weeks before the events of the film. The journey to Real for him is a return to a spot that was important to his father, who wanted to open a souvenir shop in there, but life didn’t work out for him. Since his mother left long ago, Marco is at the end of childhood; he has no one to look out for him except himself. I’m not certain if he approaches Pablo to gain access to the camera, but when he does access it, he goes to film the place where his father wanted to open his shop. At the end of the movie, he decides to sell his car to start life over in Real. That decision was probably made before the journey started, but until he hooked up with Pablo, there wasn’t anyone to notice that he was leaving. Marco is on the journey at this point and time because Pablo can record him leaving San Luis Potosi. When you are young, I guess it doesn’t take more than that to offer a stranger a ride.
The boys’ relationship is tumultuous and unstable. They fight, they bicker, they threaten to call everything off, and the more they open up to each other, the more they can say things that emotionally hurt the other. Such is the risk of taking trips with strangers. Or having relationships with anyone. It is entertaining to watch the friendship develop emotionally and sexually, even if I doubt that they will see each other again after closing credits.
The relationship between the two main characters has to carry this film as there isn’t anyone else to support it. That was a risky decision, given that the actors are fresh. That choice works because the actors are energetic and the story is set over a short period of time. Longer, and we would begin to wonder if they weren’t living in a world without people.
I liked this movie and want to give it a higher rating, even though it isn’t a great film. At barely 70 minutes, its somewhat short for a feature but too long for a short. I will be looking out for Omar Flores next movie to see how he develops as the debut is promising. He handles two actors well in a simple situation; I hope he gets the chance to show us what he can do with a larger ensemble with a more complex story developing over a full time period. He should show us what he can do with human relationships that last longer than a day.
IMDB: Peyote (2013)