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Review: Lost teen follows dark path in grim Chilean drama ‘Jesús’

Nicolás Durán in the film "Jesús."
(Breaking Glass Pictures)

Chilean writer-director Fernando Guzzoni’s unnerving drama “Jesús” is no Christ-like parable, but spiritual emptiness is certainly the prevailing mood. The title figure, played by Nicolás Durán, is a sexually fluid high-schooler in Santiago with a disinterest in education or his future, and a frosty relationship with his widower father, Hector (Alejandro Goic).

With his pal Pizarro (Sebastián Ayala), the thrills are boy band music and sex, but when a pair of older miscreants join in, the focus turns to drugs and bad behavior. The blitzed-out high jinks take a grave turn one night in a park, when this quartet of troublemakers come across a lonely, wasted teenager and beat him senseless. When the assaulted kid’s condition and a police investigation into it become news the next day, Jesús quickly discovers who’s looking out for him, and who isn’t.

Guzzoni’s movie is an unsparing portrait of aimlessness told mostly in the queasiest shades, and inspired by the true story of a young gay man in Santiago left in a coma after a night of wanton torture by four attackers. The plight of a lost gay teen drawn into violence is also at the heart of the new American indie “Beach Rats,” but Guzzoni’s movie is grimmer about family. The movie’s last act, for which Guzzoni saves his ultimate statement on the crisis of dealing with troubled youth, belongs to Hector, and Goic — a fine actor — takes the baton with heartbreaking resolve.

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‘Jesús’

In Spanish with English subtitles

No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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