“Son of the Monarchs” is about immigration, but it’s no ordinary border crossing story. The film, by director Alexis Gambis, defies the stereotypical formulas that Hollywood Mexican immigration dramas demand. Instead, it uses the allegory of monarch butterflies to sketch an alternate journey of being and belonging.
Mendel (a phenomenal Tenoch Huerta) is a Mexican biologist studying the genetic sequencing of monarchs. He recently left his home in Michoacan, an animal winter shelter for New York City. The narrative structure is a collage, with vivid scenes of Mendel’s wide-eyed youth and icy images of his harsh life in the United States. Before long, the scientist’s psyche unravels as he pieces together the pieces of leaving home, reconciling spirituality with science, and the childhood trauma and subsequent estrangement from his brother.
“Son of Kings” is ambitious and meditative, thick with philosophical ideas from its characters about the environment, life cycle, and identity. In trying to hide so much, he stumbles many times. While the slow motion demands patience, cinematographer Alejandro Mejia’s gorgeous visual universe offers immense gifts that are well worth the wait. Mejia’s camera is gracious, respecting the enigmatic green hills of Michoacan and the subtle, irregular surface of a chrysalis. It’s a big statement about the planet’s disappearing treasure under catastrophic climate change. The rich imagery of the film will be etched in your memory, returning to you in dreams.
son of kings
Rated R for disturbing imagery and clear language. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. in Theaters.