CAMINO (Javier Fesser, 2008) - When religion and real life blur each other
"The winner of six Goya awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress, Javier Fresser’s emotional drama tells the true life tale of an eleven year old girl stricken with a terminal illness, and the influence of a powerful conservative Catholic organization during her last days. Eleven year old Camino (Nerea Camacho) suffers from a tumor that is exerting pressure on her spinal cord. As a result, her cervical vertebrae have been fractured, forcing her to endure excruciating medical treatments. Camino and her family all follow the dogma of the Opus Dei, a hard-line, ultra-conservative Catholic organization that believes her suffering is all part of God’s greater plan. Now, as this radiant young girl experiences the joys of first love and mystery of death simultaneously, a powerful light shines down from above, illuminating the darkness and revealing the true depths of her happiness for all to see." - Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide,
From mubi.com (http://mubi.com/films/22321)
CAMINO is definitely not a film aimed to cheer anyone up despite its heart-touching fantasy sequences but amazingly enough it didn't make me feel that sad either. The film seems to insinuate the viewer must be sad no matter what. Maybe it's the music or just the way Camino is so brilliantly innocent all the way throughout her torturous illness but truth is I didn't feel that touched. In my case I had anger due to the blindness of her mother in recognizing and admitting the illness and suffering of her daughter.
Nerea Camacho (Camino) had a fantastic performance and her energy creates an immediate engagement once we start seeing her life before the hospital. Her smile, eyes, the capacity to say things so innocently and with just a look is indeed contagious and in that way I felt quite sad when she fell ill and a bit disappointed in a way to find out that most of film would be spent with her paralyzed.
"That's a bummer!!" - I thought.
Although we immediately know she is going to die and have an illness (as we see that in the very first minutes) I felt that the introduction of the disease was quite fast. In a way, that is good because as soon as we fall in love with Camino and want to see more of her trying to get into the Cinderella play and be with her loved one, she falls ill and we see nothing more but her in bed. And as soon as this happens the film turns us to focus on the parents.
"Same old story: mother that doesn't care and father and is hopeless", I said.
Evil, patriarchal mothers destroying their daughters. That old formula. What was nice here was how brilliant was the idea of merging this story - Camino's story - and the way it's told with the story of Cinderella, a play that Camino is desperate to do.
As we move on, this comparison becomes more and more obvious with the dreams Camino has. We even get offered a full sequence of this Disney's classic that is Cinderella.
"I wonder how much the producers had to pay for this big chunk of the film", I thought.
Delicious was the ending (you might want to turn away now if you didn't see the film because the magic and uniqueness of Camino is in the ending).
So the film presents us with an apparent blessed girl, praising Jesus and wanting him near her death bed. We are given the illusion the film is about this blessed girl who will be a saint.
No. Not at all.
We discover that the boy she met at the theatre group is named Jesus.
So yeah, you guessed it all.
She keeps praying and calling for Jesus but she just wants that letter or the actual boy to be with her so they can reveal their love. Although, I admit the film sometimes gives some space for the viewer to wonder which Jesus she is talking about and the whole thing kinda gets messed up. That is ultimately the warning the film is making: excessive religion blinds the human being to a point of one being unable to distinguish what is real - a consequence of our worldly daily life - and what is religious - faith. What causes what? And this film says it bluntly: excessive religion - one that erases all reasoning - will create nothing but damage.
Camino's death scene is then repeated at the end but now in a montage that directly compares it with the actual play of Cinderella that is happening. Jesus comes on the 26th, the day of the play and the day she dies. She talks whilst surrounded by priests and medical staff in what seems to be divine but sounds much more like she's living the play in her mind.
She's not really that religious, she's just pure innocence. An innocence that inspires everyone to be more religious and give it all to God because, the little girl, in love with a boy named Jesus, said it was happy because he met him and could be with him forever.
When religion blinds reasoning... Everything is a miracle.
Amazingly this is all based in true facts.
For that and for the fascinating way the film blended fantasy with reality and religion...
MY RATING IS:
PS: don't get me wrong, I'm religious but the levels portrayed in Camino are of an excessive level and the film warns about the consequence of that excess.