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Film / El Crimen del Padre Amaro

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Thou shalt not fornicate.

El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro) is a Mexican film released in 2002, starring Gael García Bernal, and Ana Claudia Talarcon, loosely based on based on the 1875 novel O Crime do Padre Amaro by Portuguese writer José Maria de Eça de Queiroz. It was directed by Carlos Carrera.

Amaro is a young, recently ordained Catholic Priest who, by orders of the bishop, is sent to the small town of Los Reyes, Aldama to perform his duties as a priest under the supervision of the town's priest, Father Benito. There, Amaro witnesses and becomes entangled in the affairs between the Catholic Church, the drug lords and the guerrillas in the mountains. He also becomes infatuated with Amelia, a beautiful teenager and a devout Catholic who is also the daughter of Father Benito's mistress. Ignoring the priesthood's Vow of Celibacy, he starts an affair with her and impregnates her, fearing for the future of his career in the church and his reputation in the town he decides to take Amelia to a backstreet abortion clinic... which ends in tragedy.


Famously, this film suffered an attempt of boycott by the Mexican Catholic Church before it was even released, which actually increased the interest of the people to see it, ending up in transforming it into a massive blockbuster and earning it an Academy Award nomination.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Amaro has an affair with Amelia and gets her pregnant. Being a Catholic priest in very Catholic Mexico, he of course wants her to leave town to protect his reputation. Instead, she tries to reunite with her ex-boyfriend Ruben so she can pass the baby off as his. When Ruben rejects her advances, Father Amaro arranges for Amelia to have a back-alley abortion. The abortion, of course, goes wrong and Amelia dies. Ruben coincidentally leaves town at the same time and so is subsequently blamed for what happened to Amelia while Amaro gets to keep his good reputation.
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  • Arc Words: "I confess before God Almighty that I have sinned..."
  • As the Good Book Says...: Amaro recites The Song of Songs to Amelia just as he is about to have sex with her for the first time. See also Ironic Echo.
  • Armor-Piercing Question / Shame If Something Happened: How Amaro "persuades" the director of the local newspaper into retracting an incriminating article about Father Benito:
    Director: This newspaper takes it's pride on publishing the truth.
    Amaro: And is the truth sustained by the readers or the advertising? All it takes is a phone call from the Bishop. (Beat) He won't do it of course. Now, the retraction must be in the front page headline in big letters.
  • Butt-Monkey: Amelia's boyfriend, Ruben: He loses his job, Amelia dumps him, his father is assaulted by a rabble of religious fanatics and gets blamed for impregnating Amelia and indirectly causing her death.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Amelia delivers one to Ruben by phone when she breaks up with him for writing the article that exposed the church's hospital being built with drug money.
  • Corrupt Church: The film depicts the Mexican Catholic Church in league with the drug lords and corrupt government officials.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Dionisia.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Amelia on Amaro.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ruben for accepting to write the incriminating article about Father Benito's hospital and his friendship with the drug lord, knowing that it's a small town and everybody knows him and that it would not sit well with the very Catholic parishioners and specially his girlfriend Amelia.
  • Downer Ending: Amelia dies and see Karma Houdini.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Done with a statue of the Virgin Mary.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Amaro is seeing fervently praying for a quick solution to Amelia's pregnacy.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Father Benito in the final scene is seen leaving Amelia's funeral in disgust as Amaro presides over it.
  • Expy: The drug lord "El Chato" Aguilar is a stand-in for the notorious Real Life kingpin "El Chapo" Guzman (captured in February 2014 but escaped from prison, again, in July 2015, until it was finally re-re-captured and extradited to the U.S. in January 2017), who was also ranked among the wealthiest people by Forbes.
  • Fetish: In-universe example: In one scene, before having sex with her, Amaro makes Amelia wear the robe of the Virgin Mary, Amaro contemplates her and says "You look even more beautiful than the Virgin".
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: After Amaro impregnates Amelia, he wants her to leave town to protect his reputation. Instead she tries to reunite with her ex-boyfriend Ruben so she can pass the baby off as his. When her Ruben rejects her advances, Amaro arranges for Amelia to have a back-alley abortion. The abortion, of course, goes wrong and Amelia dies.
  • Gossipy Hens: Many, but Dionisia takes the cake.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Amelia. Amaro even notices on the amount of attention she gets from the construction workers of the new hospital.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: All over the place, the most egregious examples are Father Benito for accepting drug money donations and thus turning the new hospital into a money laundering front.
  • Hypocrite: Plenty:
    • Dionisia is seen receiving the consecrated wafer during mass only for quietly spitting it out and feeding it to her cat, later she berates and threatens with Hell a group of children who are eating wafers spread with caramel.
    • Father Benito calls out Amaro for breaking his priesthood's vow of celibacy with his affair with Amelia, then Amaro points out that he is doing exactly the same thing with Amelia's mother, Sanjuanera, Father Benito fusses up and attempts to justify it by saying that it's not the same thing as he doesn't do it for lust but out of "compassion for that poor woman".
    • After Amaro successfully blackmails the director of a newspaper into retracting an article that exposed the affair of the local church with the drug lord, Amaro is seen giving his sermon saying that "Before the slander, shines the truth".
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Amaro says this when his affair with Amelia is discovered by the Father Benito:
    Father Benito: You are a Catholic Priest!
    Father Amaro: And I'm a man too.
    • This is also brought up in an earlier scene, in which Amaro and other priests discuss the idea of abolishing the Catholic Priesthood's vow of celibacy, as they ponder that it may be unrealistic to expect for a man to stay celibate for the rest of his life, only for the idea to be dismissed by the Father Benito as nonsense.
  • Ironic Echo: Amelia recites the Song of Songs as she dies in Amaro's arms.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Promotional material describes Amelia as beautiful, there's even the scene with the construction workers where Amaro comments on the attention Amelia gets from them. The actress, Ana Claudia Talarcon, isn't bad looking but it would be a stretch to call her dazzling. Amaro is also described as very handsome by Sanjuanera and the mayor's wife seems to have a crush on him.
  • Karma Houdini: This trope is the very essence of this movie. When Amelia dies from the backstreet abortion, her ex-boyfriend, Ruben, coincidentally leaves town at the same time and so is subsequently blamed by Dionisia for what happened to Amelia while Amaro gets to keep his good reputation.
  • Love at First Sight: Amelia becomes smitten with Amaro the moment she meets him.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: Father Benito has a long-standing friendship with the local drug lord who donates large sums of money for the church's new leper's hospital and orphanage.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Ruben's father is a well known and outspoken atheist, while Ruben could be described as an agnostic. Which makes them very unpopular in the town.
  • Pet the Dog: At the beginning of the movie, Amaro gives his remaining money to the man seated next to him in the bus, who was robbed of his life's savings when the bus they were traveling was mugged.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: When the bishop uses Amaro as a messenger to notify the Theology of Liberation preaching priest living with the peasants, that he is to be reassigned to a nun's convent, the peasant's priest laughs at this, and then later Amaro delivers him an excommunication notice.
  • Setting Update: From 19th century Portugal to 21st century Mexico.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Amaro at first when he tries to keep his priesthood's vow of celibacy and rejects Amelia's advances, he even puts his hands on the stove as penance; but then he gives in later.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Subverted with Amaro and Amelia, since it's clear that while Amelia did fall in love with Amaro, he in contrast is only driven by lust. And when Amelia proposes to Amaro leave everything and start a life together far away, Amaro refuses by making clear that his first priority is his vocation as a priest.
  • Villain Protagonist: Although Amaro clearly doesn't start off as a villain (see Pet the Dog), as the film progresses he is shown slowly descending into darkness and ending putting the future of his career above all else.
  • Vow of Celibacy: The titular Father Amaro, although initially trying to keep to his vows, has an affair with a teenage girl (who is herself the daughter of the mistress of Amaro's superior). It ends badly.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The film is set in the town of Los Reyes in the fictional Mexican state of Aldama.