Sergio Tovar Velarde weaves together four short films covering the major phases of the lives of gay men in Mexico City in his second feature, Four Moons. With so many unconnected stories, it feels more like a condensed TV drama than a film.
Sergio Tovar Velarde is a young Mexican director whose credits include a dozen or so shorts and one feature in the past decade. It is not a surprise that he would focus on the short film for his second feature, Four Moons. The film is a combination four independent shorts about gay males from different generations struggling with life’s issues in Mexico City in the 2010s. One tells the tale of an eleven or twelve year old boy with a crush on his cousin. Another is about two college students who fall in love and must come out to themselves and their families to move on with their relationship. The third tells the story of a mid-thirties couple dealing with infidelity. And finally, there is a story about a professor in his late sixties attempting to arrange a liaison with a hustler in a bath house. The shorts are edited together rather than shown as an anthology, and they are not connected at any point.
While I cannot point my finger at any particular short in Four Moons that was weak and could be cut, that does not mean the overall effect of telling four stories at once doesn’t create problems for the film. Watching the film is a lot like watching a condensed version of a multi-story TV drama-three or four minutes on one story-then cut to the next. I almost expected a commercial interruption. While the acting for the most part is not overly melodramatic, I felt that many important scenes, especially those involving the character transformation of the young college pair, were missing or rushed due to time constraints. The last third of the film feels like a final episode of a TV series that the director wasn’t certain would be returning for another season and so decided to wrap up as many loose ends as possible. That may be the point, however. Films with gay male characters are rare in Mexico (lesbian characters even rarer), and many of these stories may be the first sympathetic portrayals of their kind out of Mexico put into a feature film that is relatively easy to find. Given those circumstances, it makes sense for Verlarde to fill in as many spaces as possible.