Cassandro review: Gael García Bernal shines in this mellow film

Based on a true story, Cassandro follows the rise to fame of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur luchador who adopts Cassandro as his ring name. The film is now streaming on Prime Video.

Story

Saúl Armendáriz is an amateur luchador in El Paso, Texas. His ring name is El Topo, and like the other luchadors, Saúl dons a mask whenever he steps into the ring. As Saúl is yet to make a name for himself as a wrestler, he has to take various odd jobs.

Saúl’s life changes when he meets Sabrina, a wrestler who is also a trainer. Saúl impresses Sabrina, and she decides to train him. Furthermore, Saúl gets inspired by a character called Kassandra and creates the character of Cassandro for himself.

Saúl decides to wrestle as an exótico, a male wrestler who wrestles in drag. Exóticos do not win matches, but Saúl intends to win every match, which threatens the existing order of lucha libre. As Cassandro, he discards his mask.

Saúl is not afraid of being himself and subverting the traditional role of an exótico. As a gay exótico who intends to win, how far will Saúl’s Cassandro go?

Performances

Gael García Bernal is undoubtedly the soul of the film. He is extremely charming and entertaining. His portrayal of Saúl makes the audience love and root for the character who is unabashedly himself. 

Perla de la Rosa, who plays the part of Saúl’s mother, also makes an impression. The fact that she and Bernal complement each other’s performances onscreen makes it easier to see her as a loving mother who accepts her son.

Roberta Colindrez, as Sabrina, is more of a friend than a trainer to Saúl. One can see her enthusiasm every time the crowd cheers for Saúl. Lastly, Raúl Castillo, as Gerardo, performs his part well and comes across as a reserved man who keeps hiding his true self.

Positives

Saúl goes from being just another luchador to the luchador who stands out of the crowd the moment he takes off his mask and becomes Cassandro. Discarding the mask then becomes an important step in the character’s life in terms of embracing his identity, and the film is able to highlight that.

There is something inspiring about Saúl holding his head high and being himself at a time when people around him are so flagrantly homophobic. As Cassandro, Saúl dresses and wrestles with flair, and the character never fails to impress the audience. 

As the audience is aware of Saúl’s relationship with his father, it is hard not to shed a tear when a young boy tells Saúl about how Cassandro inspired him to come out to his father. The film’s ending is quite satisfying in that way.

In every match, Cassandro’s movements are smooth, which makes wrestling look like a sport as well as an art at the same time. It makes the audience wish to see more of Cassandro’s matches. 

Roger Ross Williams expertly shifts the mood of the film to convey Saúl’s emotions. For the most part, it is a laid-back film, but during Cassandro and Son of Santo’s match, the audience can almost experience what Saúl is feeling when he gets overwhelmed by the lights and the cameras surrounding him.

Negatives

The film focuses mostly on Saúl’s personal life and feelings, so it fails to chart his career growth. His rise to fame ends up looking too easy and too quick, depriving the audience of a sense of accomplishment that they would have felt on the protagonist’s behalf.

Furthermore, it is hinted more than once that Saúl’s success will not sit well with the wrestling world. The audience keeps anticipating that conflict, but it never comes. The film does not depict the opposition to Saúl’s success; it just mentions it.

Verdict

Cassandro can be best described as a mellow film that tells the story of a trailblazer. If nothing else, Gael García Bernal’s performance will definitely impress the audience.

Cassandro
Cassandro review: Gael García Bernal shines in this mellow film 1

Director: Roger Ross Williams

Date Created: 2023-09-21 20:44

Editor's Rating:
3.5

Also Read: Cassandro summary and ending explained

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