The Crime of Father Amaro (El Crimen de Padre Amaro) (2002) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

The Crime of Padre Amaro (2002), aka The Crime of Father Amaro, and originally El Crimen del padre Amaro is a wonderful Mexican drama focusing on political and sexual practices in the modern Catholic Church in Latin America. It is based on a novel of the same name written by Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirós in 1875, but the story was adapted to present day Mexico. A young priest, fresh out of the seminary, is a favorite of the bishop, and is assigned to an older, influential priest for seasoning. We learn early on that Padre Amaro is dedicated, sincere, ambitious and thinks the celibacy vow for clerics is a mistake.

We also discover that the pastor of the parish has been sleeping with his housekeeper since her husband died, and does money laundering for a local drug lord in exchange for money to build a large Catholic hospital. This is one of the things that endears him to the bishop, who explains to Padre Amaro that they take dirty money, and make it clean and pure.


Ana Claudia Talancón shows breasts in a very hot sex scene, and is in bra and panties in another scene.

Spoilers Ahead

The only priest in the diocese that is essentially a straight arrow is in a remote parish which consists of poor farmers. The bishop is down on him for "supporting guerillas and revolutionaries." Those guerillas are actually poor farmers trying to defend their meager farms from the drug lord. This, of course, strains the church's lucrative arrangement with the drug lord, and the priest is eventually excommunicated. It is these background stories that provide the meat of this drama, but the central conflict involves the young, beautiful and devout daughter of the housekeeper, played by Ana Claudia Talancón. She is a young star, very easy on the eyes, and an excellent actress. The relationship with her boyfriend, a young reporter who is not a practicing Catholic, is strained. On the other hand, Padre Amaro (Gael García Bernal of Y tu mamá también) is good looking, holy, and interested. The two have an affair, she ends up pregnant, and Padre Amaro behaves like a man, not like a Catholic priest. He suggests adoption, which doesn't interest her, then marrying her old boyfriend, who was no longer interested, and finally arranges an abortion.

When she dies from the illegal abortion, he acts as if it was her ex-boyfriend that got her pregnant, and, as the film ends, he is celebrating the requiem mass for her. His real "crime" is not the fornication, or the abortion, but his hypocrisy and ambition. While the story has the straightforwardness of a Mexican soap, there are a lot of themes beneath the surface. As you might imagine, most Catholics see it is blasphemous, but some praise it for exposing the reality of celibacy, the priesthood, finances and politics.

End Spoilers

The cinematography and the original score were first rate, and the acting was universally strong. The DVD sports a very nice wide screen transfer, Original Spanish and dubbed English sound tracks, and a full length commentary in Spanish with English subtitles by Bernal, and the director. The best films coming out of Mexico in recent years a very good indeed, and this is a very good film. If the subject interests you at all, you will probably enjoy the entire 118 minutes.

Scoop's notes in yellow:

I wasn't that impressed by this movie. Had it been a Hollywood film, it would have been dissed as an overly manufactured soap opera. The film looks great, and the stars seem to hold their weight, but I just don't see any real merit in the script. The story is completely predictable, the dialogue is either mundane or melodramatic, the characters didn't impress me with the feeling that the author had any special grasp of humanity, and the whole project is just about totally totally lacking in humor and insight. The one thing that distinguished it from a Hollywood movie was the downbeat ending.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director and actor

  • Photo gallery

  • Making-of featurette

I believe it attracted as much attention as it did because it is a Mexican movie with such a professional look and feel to it, and because of its controversial attitudes toward the Church. And the latter only matters if you care one way or the other about attacking or defending that particular institution.

I have liked and admired many recent films from Mexico, like Amores Perros and Y tu mamá tambien, but I felt that this one was just a slick film manufactured to appeal to the emerging Mexican mass market, ala the soap operas and telenovelas.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Entertainment Weekly C

  • The film was nominated by the Academy for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture. In Mexico, It won 9 Ariels and was nominated for 4 more.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.2/10, Yahoo voters 4.2/5
  • It was a big winner financially. Made for a modest 1.8 million dollars, it grossed $6 million in the USA alone, plus fairly good numbers in Spain.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "If the genre is "foreign drama," this will have a somewhat broader appeal than usual, and is properly scored a B-." Scoop says, "C. Slick, professional, movie which impresses in many ways, but just a soap opera at heart."

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