Written by Ram Venkat Srikar
Is it necessary that a film set in the ’90s resemble a movie from the ’90s? All the Freckles in the World had me asking that question over and over, scene by scene. And my answer to it, it’s not an issue if done well and even better if it mirrors the time. It wouldn’t take thought to strike the film off by disregarding the simplicity of proceedings to the shallowness, the light-hearted nature to the absolute lack of stakes, and self-absorption to the absence of motivation in writing. The moments aren’t underlined; no musical score guides you on how to feel at a specific point. In fact, numerous moments end even before we savor them. These unexisting flashes of liveliness could have made this a unique story powdered with ebullient humor, but traces are evident. It goes by the book, yet preserves its uniqueness. However, they slightly fall short to cover the wall, or should I say ground?
All the Freckles in the World decolorizes the color which mainstream movies have painted Mexico in. Literally, the color tone isn’t sepia, and there are no guns or drug cartels in sight. It’s a normal school with regular people, in a pretty typical neighborhood. I especially cherish when a place actually backs up the story. Not in an ethnographic sense, but Mexico does push the slothful narrative. The plot is as thin as paper. Jose Miguel, a young boy who just moved to Mexico City, falls for a senior and sets out to win her. And the peak football season during which the events takes place serves as a platform for Jose’s scheme of things. The sense of not belonging to a place is quite underexplored, as it would have brought in another layer to the story in a whole.
In addition, the most critical issue of the film is the age group of the characters. I’m aware the school backdrop labors as a narrative tool but was it a story that required its protagonist to be a 7th grader? The answer is an assuring ‘No’. The character choices or schemes wouldn’t have altered even if Jose was in high school or university for that matter.
Most of his dialogues are quite mature for his age. Or that might be me associating my 7th grader self to Jose’s personality, and the resulting inferiority making me say that a 7th grader doesn’t mouth lines the way Jose does. All these dialogues and antiques come with a refreshing vibe when the young boy does them. So, even the more profound shortcomings appear sugar-coated on the surface. Plus, Jose is not meant to be a likable kid. He can be mean, silly, and stupid at times, he is a kid after all. Ironically, the wisest dialogue in the film comes him when he questions his father why he doesn’t even care about the relationships and people when they relocate. Being a guy who relocated every year, this is something I empathized with and almost forgave Jose.
Sometimes, it’s the little stories that mirror life and beautiful things that come along, give a bit more than a sense of satisfaction. While All the Freckles in the World does satisfy on the surface, the soul keeps asking more. Perhaps, expecting a little movie about school love and football to change my life is childish. But the film did give the kid in me a run for the money. And most importantly, being a film where football is quite an important plot point, we deserve a punchy half-time speech, right? And there is one! If I rank it, it’ll be somewhere near Ray Romano’s one from Paddleton.
Yibrán Asuad’s All the Freckles in the World is not a life-altering piece of cinema, it doesn’t try to be one either. It’s a tale of a young kid and his stupid life decisions. Suffused with simplicity, innocence, and lively moments, a smile is guaranteed. And occasionally, that’s all we need.