What Latin Film Critics Are Saying About Pixar’s ‘Coco’

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“A bespoke gift created with local approval in mind”

Like the dead in coconut, who can’t go home if forgotten, memories are the one thing borders can’t keep me from returning to. Unable to travel to Mexico for over a decade now, I missed my grandmother’s funeral. Mama Jose, as her grandchildren called her, was a strong and loving matriarch – much like the main character in the latest Pixar movie. In a bittersweet way, this unresolved loss came back into my being as the wondrous rendering of a country that I can only see from afar materialized in every richly crafted frame.

The separation highlighted in the film may seem strictly metaphysical, but for immigrants it echoes the pain of not being able to be close to loved ones while still alive. The hope for something beyond this physical realm becomes more spiritually critical when thinking about those we couldn’t say goodbye to in this world. Whether she is conscious or not, coconut will speak to Mexicans on this side of the border about this incomplete chapter miles from their new homeland.

coconut is a bridge between those who are gone and those who remain, whether that means they are gone forever or they simply find themselves separated. It is a bridge made of luminous cempasúchil, of centuries of hardship, of economic migration, of reconnections, of a new appreciation for the past and of a culture represented by animation. It is a bridge between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, between relatives who have never met because the weather or the laws did not allow it, between English and Spanish, between rural Mexico and the chilangos like me, and between Hollywood and Latinos.

For those who are in Mexico, like my mother, coconut looks like a bespoke gift created with local approval in mind. In my mother’s eyes, the film is so distinctly Mexican that she wonders if people all over the world will like it. I think so, but in any case, the Mexicans, the most important judges, have already expressed themselves through the ticket office. Sure, viewers around the world might pick up on the universality of the story, but will they notice any seemingly minor embellishments like the cameos of Mexican icons, the Mexican soccer jersey on one of the characters, the pan dulce on the table, the details in the granny apron, or the rustic graveyard? Probably not, and that’s okay. We noticed.

On a joyfully childish level, coconut gave me hope that if Mama Jose is where Mama Coco is, then one day the borders will no longer separate us.

Carlos Aguilar

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