Mosquita y Mari: the Coming-of-Age You've Never Seen Before
by Ariana Ortiz
Mosquita y Mari (2012), written and directed by Aurora Guerrero, takes place in the poor, primarily Mexican community of Huntington Park, Los Angeles. It focuses on the friendship between two fifteen year-old girls—Yolanda, lovingly nicknamed Mosquita (Fenessa Pineda), and Mari (Venesia Troncoso).
It tells the story of their individual struggles with poverty, first-generation guilt, and their shaky transitions into adulthood in their culturally vibrant yet bleak environment. Their budding friendship gives way into something less platonic and borders on romantic, but the film staunchly refuses to sexualize them—which earns major points from me after the male gaze-y disaster that was Blue is the Warmest Color. And while it doesn’t sexualize them, it is obvious that certain scenes are sexually charged. This depiction of sexual and romantic awakening is pretty accurate when we remember that the film is about two fifteen-year olds.
The casting decisions lend the film a strong foundation of authenticity: The two lead actresses, Pineda and Troncoso, are actually the age of the characters they play. Initially, it takes a bit of time to adjust to them, as we are so accustomed to twenty-something models playing young teenage girls. In addition, the two lead actresses are young Latinas who hail from East Los Angeles; nothing about their vernacular is forced. Their chemistry onscreen is also worth praising, as their interactions are always easy and natural. The soundtrack is light and dreamlike, always understated and reminiscent of a lullaby
Mosquita y Mari transports us into the world of Huntington Park. The film is extremely visual in that its cinematography is beautiful and a little bit shocking; the streets of East LA are shot with the same delicacy and artistry as though they were the streets of Paris. There is no doubt that this is a gorgeous movie, yet the dialogue isn’t as comically scarce as it tends to be in other atmospheric films. Everything that is said is either central to the plot or makes us feel more immersed in Mosquita’s life; no word is said in vain. As someone who equally hates both drawn out dialogue and too-short exchanges that leave me guessing, I appreciate that.
I also appreciate that Guerrero herself is a Chicana, and Mosquita y Mari is drawn from her own experiences. The film captures Chicana girlhood, and yet refuses to be a completely light, feel-good portrayal of it. For instance, the consequences of Mosquita’s parents becoming fully aware of her romantic attraction to Mari are hinted at, and they are dark.
Mosquita y Mari might be one of the most relatable films I’ve seen to date. It draws you in with the promise of good cinematography, but ends up stunning you with its realistic portrayal of the crippling uncertainty of growing up.
Consider avoiding if you’re averse to: Quiet, subtle movies.
Watch if you: saw Blue is the Warmest Color and wanted it to be good; love European indie movies
Tip: See it with a childhood friend so you can relive your difficult adolescence together. It’s on Netflix!
Rating: 10/10 stars