Review by Sean Boelman
There are definitely some films that are made primarily to convey a message, and that is the case with Joaquin del Paso’s The Hole in the Fence. It’s a movie that is mostly well-made and has a strong argument, but would be much more effective had it not been so similar to other Latin American films as of late.
The movie tells the story of a group of boys attending a secluded summer camp where they are being indoctrinated religiously and morally to become the next Mexican “elite”. The script largely exists in service of the commentary, pretty much everything happening just to make a point about Mexican society.
At its core, the film is about the stratification of Mexican society and how this division is threatening to tear the country apart. There have been a handful of movies to come out to explore this theme recently, and they have largely been divisive due to how aggressively political they are. This will be no exception.
This is a slow-burn thriller in that much of the first hour is spent immersing the viewer in this unsettling world before everything turns wild in the final act. The shocking violence that occurs towards the end of the film is very effective in making the audience feel a sense of disgust towards these people and what they represent.
If there is something missing from the movie, it is more detailed character development. The film takes the very safe approach of giving us a protagonist who is an outsider to the organization, not quite fitting in with the worst of the bunch due to his moral qualms. And he is the least archetypal of the characters, as everyone else is written to the lowest common denominator.
For the most part, a majority of the young cast is very good. There is definitely a very exaggerated personality to many of the characters, but the actors pull it off in a way that is believable and creates a strong dynamic. The adult actors go a bit more off the deep end with their performances, but they are effective for what they are.
The movie also has a very effective visual style to it. The cinematography in the film is excellent, taking advantage of the remote Mexican countryside setting to make everything feel distant and almost otherworldly. This helps to create the immersive atmosphere that draws us into this world, and in turn, the message.
The Hole in the Fence is certainly an interesting movie, and will have quite an emotional impact on viewers. That said, even though the film meets its goals, it doesn’t have the same level of effectiveness as some other movies on the same topic.
The Hole in the Fence screened at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.