Smile Politely

Growing up carefully

Mosquita y Mari is a coming-of-age tale that follows Yolanda and Mari, two Chicana high-school girls in L.A. 

Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda) is a dedicated, straight-A student. Her parents have high hopes for her future and, even though she is only a freshman, they talk plenty about college. She’s on the path to be the top of her class until she becomes study partners with Mari (Venecia Troncoso), a mysterious and rebellious beauty that intrigues Yolanda from the outset.

Yolanda and Mari develop a drama-filled, complicated, playful, and sexually tense relationship that challenges what they know about themselves and each other. Mari is cynical and guarded and she nicknames Yolanda “Mosquita,” saying that she is like a fat little fly. Yolanda takes it in stride and the two form a bond nonetheless.

Further complicating the girls’ relationship is their home life. Mari’s mother is almost altogether absent from the home, spending much of her time at work, struggling to make ends meet, with little resolve. As a result, Mari feels forced into doing odd jobs to support the family and help out with the overdue bills (although I never was sure how the rent was overdue if the family just moved in to the place). All of this adds up to a semi-detached Mari who can never fully invest her true self into something. Instead, she disappears into the music that filters in through her headphones, always staying one step removed from a true sensory experience and careful observation of her surroundings.

Mari does grow in her experiences with Yolanda, who is quite the opposite of her. Yolanda is held back by the way that she overthinks and overanalyzes each situation, which, in turn, prevents her from ever fully experiencing something authentically. Part of her attraction to Mari seems to be in her ability to escape, if even for brief moments at a time.

Writer/Director Aurora Guerrero captures the essence and contrast of the two teenagers living in L.A. and hailing from immigrant families. There are a couple of awkward moments in the film (in particular a scene at a grocery store where the local deli worker seemed to have extensive knowledge about the girls’ lives, which he abruptly and conveniently delivers to their parents), but that has more to do with the script than the action itself.

I was, at times, reminded of Scary Normal while watching Mosquita y Mari, as the girls tentatively explored their own identity, as well as the evolution of their mutual identity. There are similarities in the careful approach of the two films and, like Scary Normal, Mosquita y Mari benefits from two lead actresses who are sincere and authentic in bringing out the tenderness of the girls’ uncertain relationship.

Mosquita y Mari is part of the 4th Annual LGBT Film Festival held at the Art Theater Co-op every Tuesday in June. It plays tonight, Tuesday, June 18, at 9:30 p.m. For more information about the festival, go here.

Eds. note: Scary Normal, by local filmmaker Jennifer Bechtel, is also part of the LGBT Film Festival and will play Tuesday, June 25th. Look for an upcoming review of the film, as well as an interview with Bechtel.

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