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Film Review: “Frontera” (2014)


Written and directed by: Michael Berry

Cast: Ed Harris, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Amy Madigan, Aden Young, Michael Ray Escamilla, Daniel Zacapa, Michael Berry

Frontera” tells a simple and beautiful story of a good natured man who knows the right way to handle facts and who manages not to let anger to take control over his mind. Roy (Ed Harris) is a former Arizona sheriff, who is enjoying his retirement on his ranch with his beloved wife – Livy.

Miguel (Michael Peña) is a hardworking man from the other side of the border – Mexico, who does his best to support his family and his pregnant wife Paulina (Eva Longoria). Meanwhile, he dreams about the land of opportunities. Miguel has made several attempts to cross the border and every single time he has been caught and sent back to his hometown. This time he promises to himself that everything should work out.  The desire to have a better life for his loved ones leads him to Arizona; to cross the the U.S. border illegally.

Roy has a bad feeling about his wife taking a ride across the ranch property alone. However, disregarding this anxiety, he kisses her goodbye and promises to not work too hard until Livy’s return.  Soon after she leaves, the silence of the ranch is interrupted by the sound of gun shots. A few moments later Roy is holding his injured dying wife right in his arms. Devastated and heartbroken, Roy does not spend his time mourning this loss. As a former sheriff he has to use all his experience to look for the answers. Answers, which are going to change forever his life as well as the lives of anyone involved.

We do not see many classical ‘western’ style films anymore in the 21st century – films, like “For a Few Dollars More” with Clint Eastwood, or John Wayne films. “Frontera” is definitely not one of those as well. However, this film can rightfully wear the crown/title of “one of the best western films ever made in the 21st century”.

The main storyline is well developed and quite remarkably realised. It revolves around Miguel (Michael Peña) and Roy (Ed Harris) whose lives are shaken by the tragic death of Livy. Miguel knows Livy for only a few minutes, but already admires her kindness. In his turn, Roy cannot feel the same towards Miguel, who he, as many others, believes to be the main suspect in the murder of his wife. However, when Roy meets Miguel, he starts doubting that this simpleminded man is capable of killing anyone. The judge and the current sheriff of Arizona are ready to indict Miguel and charge him for a crime he may not have committed.  And, the only man who will stand for him to prove that there is someone else who should take responsibility for what he is accused for – is Ray – Livy’s husband.

New ideas, interesting and engaging story and, of course, good cast are most of the necessary components to make an unforgettable film. “Frontera”  is written and directed by Michael Berry, who also appears in the film in the role of a ‘Father’ and is one of those filmmakers who brings freshness to Hollywood telling his incredibly beautifully story of a man, who unlike many others in the film, has a unique personality, and kind heart, to make you totally fall in love with him. What fascinates me most about this film is the directing style. Michael Berry is not that experienced a filmmaker having only a few short films under his belt. Nevertheless, his directing of “Frontera” can well provoke the jealousy of many big-name directors. Berry brings to his first major film something that many other films are lacking and will probably never get – a soul. And it also delivers a beautiful message to those who think that all immigrants coming from other countries, or as in this particular film, from Mexico, are bad people. If only we would give them a chance to show us their real intentions, this would certainly arouse our curiosity about them, and we would welcome them into our country with open arms to share their beautiful culture.

To us, “Frontera” will not only be remembered as a film with a touching story, but also for its incredible cast, who deliver compelling performances. Roy is played by one of the most talented actors in Hollywood – Ed Harris. Harris shines in any film he appears; to list some of his prominent works – “The Hours”, where he shared the screen with Meryl Streep, or “A Beautiful Mind” co-starring with Russel Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, or “The Truman Show” or “The Human Stain” with Nicole Kidman and Sir Antony Hopkins. Harris is one of those actors, who I would say, is a perfect match to play in western films. He truly disappears into his role, even though he remains recognizable. He always researches and studies the characters he plays to deliver a solid performance, which he does again in “Frontera”. Michael Peña has appeared in most of the recent blockbuster films – “Gangster Squad”, “End of Watch”, “Battle Los Angeles” and “Lincoln Lawyers”. However, in “Frontera” he finally delivers the performance that I was expecting from him. Peña is a gifted (if not underestimated) actor, who should have been given roles like he had in “Frontera” long ago. He delivers a solid performance in this dramatic film, and I truly hope he receives more roles like this.

But who surprised me most with an excellent performance – is Eva Longoria, who only appears in the film for an episode of fifteen minutes, but makes a great use of that screen time to prove that she is no longer Gabrielle Solis from “Desperate Housewives”.

In conclusion, “Frontera” is a competent rehash of drama plots we have seen before. It is a carefully told story of immigrants without touching upon the political aspects of this topic. The actors seem so passionate about this film that the passion and energy can be felt throughout the whole work. It touches upon the story of the American-Mexican frontier; however, it never touches upon the political aspects of the subject matter, which makes this film absolutely remarkable. “Frontera” delivers a deep message that not everyone who crosses the border is an enemy or an evil person, who should be arrested and sent back to where they came from; yet the one living right next door, could be more dangerous. “Frontera” certainly teaches us how to react to personal tragedy and not to jump to conclusions right away, allowing our minds to cool down and see facts from different perspectives instead of the one viewpoint that anger might show us/lead us to. It’s a truly amazing film that I would recommend as a must-see to everyone.

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