Based on an 1875 Portuguese novel by Eça de Queiroz. Recently ordained
a priest, 24-year-old Father Amaro is sent to a small parish church in
Los Reyes, Mexico, to assist the ageing Father Benito in his daily
work. Benito welcomes Father Amaro into a new life of unseen
challenges. Upon arriving in Los Reyes, the ambitious Father Amaro
meets Amelia, a beautiful 16-year-old girl whose religious devotion
soon becomes helplessly entangled in a growing attraction to the new
priest. Amaro soon discovers that corruption and the Church are old
acquaintances in Los Reyes and he is torn between the divine and the
carnal, the righteous and the unjust.

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The Crime of Padre Amaro is a Mexican film which caused an uproar when it was first released, the Catholic Church which is tremendously strong in Mexico tried to have it banned, its two stars were threatened with excommunication. It went on to become the highest grossing domestic film ever in that country.

Padre Amaro, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, the star of Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien, is a 24-year-old priest assigned to the provincial diocese of Los Reyes. Initially idealistic and kind, he finds a situation where the resident priest, Father Benito, Sancho Gracia, not only accepts laundered money from the local drug lord to build a clinic, he has a mistress, Sanjuanera, Angelica Aragon. Soon Amaro finds himself defending Benito's association with the drug lord and having impure thoughts towards 16-year-old Amelia who teaches catechism. She is enraptured by him, both sexually and spiritually.

This rather turgid melodrama lurches between moments of almost embarrassing silliness to a quite serious political expose of the hypocrisy of the church. Gael Garcia Bernal is as beautiful as ever, but you never feel you get a handle on Amaro beyond him being a rather ambitious, easily swayed young man who betrays his role as a priest quite reprehensibly. Directed unexcitingly by Carlos Carrera from Vicente Lenero's screenplay which is based on a late 19th century novel by Eça de Queiroz, it's a tale that certainly conveys the power of the iconography, the mysticism of the church but never manages to achieve power with the story it's aiming to tell.

Comments by David Stratton
: Peyton Place in Mexico. This deliberately scandalous film tries rather too hard to shock. Not only do two priests have mistresses, and one organises an abortion for his pregnant mistress, but an old woman feeds communion wafers to her cats, a priest takes part in money laundering for a drug runner, and the one truly honest priest in the film is excommunicated. It's all a bit much, and handled in a rather obvious, unsubtle style by director Carlos Carrera. Some of the actors are very good, but there's little real feel for this community.