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Prayers for the Stolen 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Ana (Ana Cristina Ordonez Gonzalez) and her mother Rita (Mayra Batalla) dig a shallow hole with their bare hands, and Ana lies in it to see if she fits. This is where Ana will hide if anyone comes for her. They live in San Miguel in the state of Jalisco, on a steppe near a mountain that’s occasionally rocked with explosions, the work of a quarry. Everyone appears to either work at the quarry or, like Rita, in fields where they slash and milk poppy plants of their sap, which is presumably processed to make heroin. Occasionally, the whup-whup of helicopter blades can be heard in the distance, and everyone dashes inside — they rain down what the locals refer to as “poison,” most likely toxic pesticide.
Eight-year-old Ana and her mother live in poverty, stone walls with a rickety roof and cement floor; she lies in bed and watches a large scorpion crawl up the wall. There’s a nearby hill where local residents gather with their cell phones, because it may be the only spot to get decent reception. They call Ana’s father, who left to get a job and send back money, but he no longer answers. Ana attends a school where teachers make do with crude drawings and spirited lectures in lieu of textbooks, surely a costly luxury. She’s best friends with Maria (Blanca Itzel Perez) and Paula (Camila Gaal), and possibly Juana, who disappears one day, and all that’s left of her is a sandal in the mud and her bike, cast alongside her house.
Ana and Paula’s mothers take them to the salon in town, where they cry as their hair is cut into short, boyish styles. Rita says it’s because they carry lice, but it’s a pretty transparent lie. Maria is spared the upsetting experience — she has a cleft lip, which makes her unlikely to be targeted by cartel sex traffickers. Several years will pass before doctors arrive, with military escorts, to offer long-overdue medicine and treatment to locals, and 13-year-old Maria (Giselle Barrera Sanchez) has surgery to fix her palate. Soon enough, she also gets a haircut to match Ana (Marya Membreno) and Paula’s (Alejandra Camacho). They’re in the salon with their mothers when the sound of trucks prompts them to hide under tables; military soldiers cower as cartel men roar through town, firing their machine guns into the air, asserting their power. The girls teeter on the precipice of innocence and adulthood — they watch Maria’s brother in the rodeo, attend a dance, frolic through the forest. Ana even has a pet scorpion in a plastic soda bottle now. But their free lives feel like borrowed time.
Huezo frequently holds the camera still, lingering on her subjects to illustrate the unease that creeps silently into the frame like a deadly invisible gas. Peaceful, playful scenes of everyday life — mostly the lives of children like Ava — unfold uneventfully, sometimes with quiet poetry. Rita and the adults sense the hovering dread, and they look weary, bearing the weight for the sake of their daughters’ quickly expiring innocence. The girls’ budding sexuality is like a curse. Huezo’s five-year narrative leap is a daring one, requiring her three principals to be cast twice, and all six young actresses are naturals with an impressive indifference for the camera, and an implicit understanding of their director’s quest for realism.
Prayers for the Stolen is a tense drama and coming-of-age story, gripping in its authenticity and the profound artistry of its cinematography. Some scenes exist purely for texture — men at the quarry being enveloped with dust after an explosion, a shot of ants transporting a dead butterfly across the forest floor. Others emphasize character development in subtle ways: Teachers are frequently subject to threats for scenes just like the one where Leonardo (Memo Vallegas) turns a chair upside-down and invites Paula to sit on it; she walks up, turns it upright, and he says, “Many things in this town are upside-down. But Paula was brave enough to come up and change something.” Ana is inspired by the moment, and later, she shows surprising capacity for accurate shooting when Maria’s brother Margarito (Julian Guzman Giron), a remedial-level cartel employee, lets her try out his 9mm. So maybe there’s some hope percolating among the heartbreak in this story.