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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All the Freckles in the World ("Todas las Pecas del Mundo") is a Spanish language movie (with English subtitles) made in Mexico. A cocky young teen in a new school is immediately smitten by a freckled classmate. His efforts to win her over and find his place in the school community are both comical and poignant. Set in 1994, before the predominance of cellphones and social media, the atmosphere surrounding that year's FIFA World Cup soccer games is a backdrop to the story. The movie has a bit of swearing, insults, and potty language (i.e., "damn," "crap," "ass," "bimbo," "idiot," "stop eating your boogers;" a boy pees on camera, and someone issues a middle finger salute). A slap, a push, a punch, a boy is hit in the face by a ball, and the threat of a fight are the "action" moments. Teenagers kiss, and one minor plot element is an implied coerced relationship between a female teacher and a 19-year-old student.
What's the story?
Jose Miguel (Hanssel Casillas) is 13 and unhappy about changing schools in ALL THE FRECKLES IN THE WORLD. In addition to being the new kid, he's short and looks young for his age, things that don't make for an easy transition (carrying a childish lunchbox doesn't help). Wanting to belong isn't the only motivator for the clever boy. When he spots Cristina (Loreta Peralta) -- older, taller, "perfect" -- he immediately becomes smitten. Even learning that Cristina has a steady boyfriend, the older, taller, "perfect" Kenji (Luis de la Rosa) doesn't dissuade him. Single-minded and with little regard for the feelings or needs of others, Jose vows to win her heart and initiates Operation Cristina to do just that. Jose's quest finds him in a series of precarious situations; his determination, resourcefulness, and "underdeveloped" values (i.e., cheating and lying) only serve to make his pursuit more difficult.
Is it any good?
Co-writer/director Yibran Asuad of Mexico brings freshness and charm to a familiar underdog story; the vibrant, young Hanssel Casillas helps him sell it. In fact, most of the young actors in All the Freckles in the World deliver authentic, assured performances. Asuad takes the risk of making his "hero" terrifically flawed but ultimately loveable nonetheless. The movie's wry humor should appeal to teens; what happens to Jose and his friends is universally funny and relatable, with some exceptions.
The attempted "amusing" mini-plot about a teacher using a 19-year-old boy, struggling in school several years behind his grade level, as a sexual object is unnecessary and creepily out of step with the rest of the plot. Along with that, the stereotypes (gung-ho teacher, mean-spirited teacher, overweight non-athlete) don't elevate the material. Otherwise, it's an upbeat, original, contemporary movie. For U.S. audiences, seeing recognizable and relatable teen behavior in a Mexican secondary school is a plus, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the positive aspects of seeing movies from other countries, especially for kids. What are some of those positives? In what ways did All the Freckles in the World change or enrich your understanding of the Mexican culture? Were you surprised to see that Jose Miguel's school was made up of diverse ethnic groups?
Did you notice that in many scenes the teens were eating candy, most prominently lollipops? What might have been the intention of the filmmakers by including that behavior? What did it tell you about the characters?
Be media savvy. What is a "character arc?" Trace the "arc" of Jose Miguel's character. Was he likeable at the beginning of the story? How did you feel about him by the end? Was he "redeemable?" Did the movie successfully show the experiences that helped him change and grow as a person?
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