In the midst of a world plagued by gang violence, 10-year-old Estrella (Paolo Lara) is left to her own devices after her mom disappears. As a protection measure—or is it a stroke of the supernatural?—Estrella believes to have been granted three wishes, and she uses one to bring her mother back, though failing to mention that she wanted her alive. Haunted by the dead shell of her mother, she leaves home and ends up taking up camp with a group of local orphan boys in their small Mexican village, nervously trying to remain hidden from murderous drug-dealing local thugs and forming a strong familial bond in the process. A fantastical tale that is also steeped in hard-bitten realities, writer-director Issa López’s alternately heart-wrenching and chilling film inevitably elicits Guillermo del Toro comparisons, mostly for its ability to extract wholly believable performances from its young cast, but stands firmly on its own as inspired cinema. New York Premiere
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