Mexico has made great strides in the world of cinema over the last few years. Films like Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien have set a high standard of filmmaking, while also opening doors for other Mexican filmmakers. Rabbit on the Moon would like to claim a spot in this prestigious club, unfortunately, it falls somewhat short.

When Antonio (Bruno Bichir) and Julie (Lorraine Pilkington) purchase a piece of land from unsavoury business man Chubby Corona (Carlos Cobos) the cheque that they hand over is used to incriminate them in the assassination of a Mexican political leader. While the couple have nothing to do with the assassination, Chubby Corona incriminates them out of spite during an interrogation. Julie, Antonio and their new-born child are then forced to run from the government with no one to turn to for help.

I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed Rabbit on the Moon (Mexican title: Conejo en la luna), I found it to be a difficult watch. It has to be one of the most brutal films I have seen in a long time. Brutal not in a blood and guts sense – although it does have its fair share of violence – but more in terms of the atmosphere that accompanies the film during its running time. From the start the film exudes what I can only describe as an immense sense/feeling of dread and as the main protagonists – Julie and Antonio – become ever more entangled in its plot this seems to multiply exponentially. I was emotionally involved with this film throughout; I didn’t find it very pleasurable to watch but at the same time I couldn’t look away from the screen.

Director Jorge Ramírez Suárez has constructed a world that is born out of and that thrives on corruption. As the Mexican government officials and the policemen that work under them murder, kidnap and torture the individuals that stand in their way, Suárez paints a terrifying picture of Mexican life and the people who are in power. How true this portrayal is I can’t say but I will admit that the thought of avoiding a visit to Mexico did enter my mind on more than one occasion. These are gritty and sadistic bad guys and you hope they get what’s coming to them.

Being a British-Mexican co-production this is where Rabbit on the Moon stumbles. The setup takes place in Mexico and instead of remaining there (probably as a result of the co-production agreement) the film splits the couple up – with Antonio going to England. This plot device felt extremely contrived at first. There was so much tension in Mexico that I was disappointed that this choice had been made. It felt as if the director was running away from the situation himself. Not all is lost, however; with Julie left behind, the sense of dread that smothers the film is further enhanced by Antonio’s sense of hopelessness at being stuck in England.

Rabbit on the Moon is a gritty piece of cinema that had me watching in fascinated disgust at the portrayal of Mexican officials and crooked cops. As social commentary it would seem to say a lot about Mexico but, again, this is not something I can comment on accurately. As a piece of cinema it gets a lot right (filled with tension and suspense) but at times it drags and loses much of the intense energy that it started with (Antonio going to England is a culprit). It’s not a film for everyone but it is one that certainly had me thinking about it some time after I walked out of the cinema.

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