Sundance Review: Son of Monarchs

The United States of America and Mexico have a long and complex history. Dating all the way back to the Texas Revolution in 1835, the socio-political relationship between the two nations has been interwoven over many generations. Millions of Mexicans have crossed the border chasing the American dream of a ‘better life’, forming a vital and intrinsic part of the US labour market. However, as Trump’s wall has illustrated, this dynamic is often fractious and contentious. This tense coexistence provides the background for Alexis Gambis’ new film, Son of Monarchs.

As a child, Mendel (Tenoch Huerta) was fascinated by the monarch butterflies which were abundant in his native Michoacán. He channelled this obsession, now working as a scientist researching their genetics in New York. Meanwhile, his older brother Simon (Noé Hernández) remained in their hometown, struggling to make ends meet. The pair are estranged, but when their grandmother dies, Mendel returns to Mexico to face up to his personal demons surrounding the death of their parents.

Son of Monarchs is a powerful and personal drama about identity, loss and remembrance. Beautifully shot and perfectly paced, Gambis turns his focus inward; meditating on the hybrid nature of Mexican lives in America. Balancing the financial benefits with the notion of loss of self. Like the butterflies themselves, this migration may be practically necessary but there’s a natural urge to return to the ancestral home. Son of Monarchs is an impeccably judged and thoughtful treatise on family, selfhood and grief.

Son of Monarchs screens at Sundance Film Festival.

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