Latest posts by Alexander P. Garza (see all)
- Review: Little Rooster’s Egg-cellent Adventure (Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos) - October 30, 2015
- Review: Behavior (Conducta) - June 17, 2015
- Lorís Simón Salum and the Literally Short Film Festival - June 12, 2015
Instructions Not Included (No se Aceptan Devoluciones) stars and is directed by Eugenio Derbez and brought in about $10.4 million during its opening labor day weekend in 2013, the highest opening a Spanish language movie has ever had in the U.S., according to Entertainment Weekly.
He plays Valentin, a Mexican beach bum bachelor who finds himself taking care of a child, Maggie, (Loreto Peralta) that he supposedly fathered and who was abandoned by her mother, Julie (Jessica Lindsey). Upon Julie’s abandoning of them, Valentin takes Maggie to the U.S. to find Julie in hopes of returning Maggie to her. Hence the original title “No Returns Accepted”. 11 years later, Valentin has become one of the leading stunt men in Hollywood to support himself and Maggie, and they have built a life together that gets unexpectedly interrupted when Julie appears and seeks out full custody of Maggie.
I admit I did not know Eugenio Derbez before watching this film, but it’s inspired me to start checking out his other films, which I will do after writing this review. Eugenio seems to be taking a stab at appealing to American audiences, and is having to adjust his acting style as well. The characters were refreshing and funny.
Derbez is extremely talented and is able to play nuances that many actors fail to pick up on. Valentin and Julie begin to battle it out in the courts in a way that reminds me of War of the Roses, and all the while, Maggie, sits on the bylines waiting to know her fate. Julie has also become a hot shot lawyer which makes the custody battle that much more troublesome for Valentin. She orders a paternity test, and brings just about everything else she’s got to get custody.
I hated Julie’s character, and felt forced to forgive her during the course of the movie. I refused to forgive her, and was a little bit surprised at how Valentin forgave her so easily. Her actions could have separated Valentin and Maggie permanently and led to the deportation of Valentin. What kind of person can claim any right after abandoning their baby for over a decade?
This dichotomy of Mexican Father vs. American Mother parallels the opposing forces of identity in Mexican Americans. Here we have Maggie who’s caught in the middle of this battle for ownership, battle of culture, language, lifestyle, and security. Valentin is trying to face his fears head on: his fears of commitment, of love, of life, and of heights. From an early age, it’s established that Valentin is scared of heights and fears jumping from them as well. It was humorous to have this stunt man who specializes in high falls to be scared of heights. If Maggie lives with Valentin, it is risky and dangerous. If she lives with Julie, it is secure and safe. Julie, is a privileged American who made some mistakes, and is trying to make up for them. The only way that Julie can make up for what she’s done and for Valentine to face his fears is to look past their custody battle and focus on what matters most.
Instructions Not Included was delightful, moving, and entertaining. I would have liked to see the final scene presented differently, and found it hard to swallow. It was forced, and I give kudos to Derbez for executing it as best he could. Overall, I’d see this movie again, buy it for my private collection, and recommend it to friends.
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