Indie Film Review: 'The Wall of Mexico'

The Wall of Mexico

Directors: Zachary Cotler & Magdalena Zyzak
Writer: Zachary Cotler
Cast: Jackson Rathbone, Esai Morales, Marisol Sacramento, Carmela
Zumbado with
Xander Berkeley and special appearance by Mariel Hemingway.

The Wall of Mexico was directed by Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak, who had both worked together on an indie feature called Maya Dardel back in 2017. The Wall of Mexico is their second feature film. Beside directing the film, Cotler also wrote and composed for the film.

The film stars Esai Morales as Henry Arista. Morales is a veteran actor who has appeared in many films and TV series since the 80’s, including the rock and roll singer Ritchie Valens’ biopic La Bamba (1987), In the Army Now (1994), and the DC TV show Titans. Morales has also been cast in the highly anticipated upcoming blockbuster franchise, Mission: Impossible 7 and 8Jackson Rathbone plays Donovan Taylor. Rathbone gained his popularity by playing Jasper Hale in The Twilight Saga. Also involved is Marisol Sacramento. Before landing the role of Tania Arista, Sacramento was appearing in episodes of such as TV shows as Ten Days in the Valley, S.W.A.T., and Blue Bloods. Sacramento also landed a role in 2018 film City of Lights. Monica Arista is played by Alex Meneses, a veteran actress who has been in many films since the 90’s, including Selena (1995) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000). Michael Rand is portrayed by Xander Berkeley, another veteran actor who has appeared in many films and TV shows, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Candyman.

The Wall of Mexico story involves a wealthy Mexican-American family who hired Donovan Taylor (Jackson Rathbone) to take care their mansion along with their long time caretaker Michael Rand (Xander Berkeley). The family consists of their father Henry Arista (Esai Morales), their mother Monica Arista (Alex Meneses), and two daughters Tania Arista (Marisol Sacramento) and Ximena Arista (Carmela Zumbado). The family owns a special well water that townspeople are depending on. This water has something about it that makes people crave it. As the townspeople start to steal their water during the night, Donovan is assigned to be the night watcher to patrol around the well. One night, a group of people from the town sneak in, steal their water on Donovan’s watch, and get away. After that, the family orders Donovan and Michael to build a wall around their mansion to stop townspeople from stealing it.

The Wall of Mexico has a strong opening, introducing who the characters are, what they do, and what their backstories are. However, the beginning of act two did not live up to the flow. The story takes a different direction after Donovan is assigned to be the night watcher around the well from water thief. Then it falls flat again as the focus drifts to the sisters who live their party life with their coke head friend (played by Moises Arias). With all due respect, the role of Moises Arias was pointless. He was just there, and nothing really happened with him, nor did he have an impact on the story. If we took him out of the story, it would not change. There was no strong conflict among these characters. I understood that there was an attempt to build the relationship among those characters to the point that we felt the unlikability of the sisters, but it felt very slow at several points. Without conflict, there is no roller coaster. The film stays in one boring flow. The sisters are very smart, I will give it that. However, they did not really create tension or conflict with Donovan or any other characters. Their chemistry and relationships were built up, but nothing really happened.

The switch of main focus on the water stealing is great, making the main storyline a subplot so that some time can be spent building the characters. Their performances are stellar, but in the end, each of these characters gain nothing. There is development for each character, but there is no accomplishment in the end. Donovan was fired because he wanted to taste the water and was caught by Tania. Then he was upset as he went to contaminate the water with some substance he found at the shack. The family took legal action of course, but he lost. He gained nothing. Felt like fighting an empire but losing and gaining nothing. There are a lot of movies where the good guys lose, but with the loss, the world or people around them gain something back. This was not one of those cases.

Why they built the wall and what is in the water is interesting to see. But there are no achievements on the character’s goal. The family is still going on their happy wealthy life, and Donovan carries on with his life. What did they accomplish? All these relationships were built, but for what? It felt like the directors wanted to do a character-driven story and yet wanted a plot-driven story simultaneously. If this had been executed well, it might have worked.

The cinematography is fantastic. Those neon lights gave the feeling from the famous Italian horror’s Suspiria when Donovan was peeking outside the party house. The play with color was beautiful, we felt something was going to happen, like a warning. The night scene on the well was well lit. The warm on the well made the well as a life source for everyone. It is like this is the point or focus on this story. There were great angles. The performance from Jackson Rathbone is fantastic. He was able to carry the character as a quiet, socially awkward, curious, and nervous one throughout the movie. The sisters played by Carmela Zumbado and Marisol Sacramento are beautifully crafted. Their relationships and wittiness between the two sisters are amazing. They nailed it with their stellar performances. We believed these sisters have special bonds. They are smart, but weird, and that is what made them interesting characters. They knew how to carry the characters to next level. Esai Morales, of course, without a doubt, did an amazing performance. He was able to carry Henry Arista as a strong character. Firm, friendly, but if you mess with him, he would take you down like nothing in fight.

This is not a bad movie, but it could have been tightened up more and given the characters more conflicts and something to accomplish in the end. I was still entertained by the stellar performances from these talents, who had great chemistry and relationships. Overall, I will give this film a score of 3 out of 5.

The Wall of Mexico will be in theaters on October 9 and on VOD on October 13.