‘Son of Sovereigns’ Review: Butterflies and Belonging

“Son of Monarchs” is about immigration, but this is no ordinary border crossing story. Directed by director Alexis Gambis, the film resists the stereotypical formulas that Hollywood demands of Mexican immigration dramas. Instead, he draws on the allegory of monarch butterflies to chart an alternative journey of being and belonging.

Mendel (an outstanding Tenoch Huerta) is a Mexican biologist who studies the genetic sequencing of monarchs. He recently left his home in Michoacán, the animals’ winter refuge for New York City. Its narrative structure is a collage with bright scenes from Mendel’s wide-eyed youth and icy images of his austere life in the United States. Before long, the scientist’s psyche unravels as he grapples with leaving home, reconciling spirituality with science, and parts of his childhood trauma and then distance from his sibling.

“Son of Monarchs” is ambitious and meditative, filled with philosophical reflections from its characters about the environment, life cycles and identity. In his attempt to cover so much, he stumbles at times. While the slow pace demands patience, cinematographer Alejandro Mejía’s gorgeous visual universe has tremendous gifts worth waiting for. Mejía’s camera is elegant, respectful of the idyllic green hills of Michoacán and the microscopic, irregular surface of a chrysalis. A bigger statement about the lost treasures of the planet under catastrophic climate change. The rich images of the movie will be engraved in your memory and will come back to you in your dreams.

son of rulers
Rated R for offensive images and explicit language. English and Spanish, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 37 minutes. In movie theaters.

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