Original Title: Presos
Country: Costa Rica, Colombia
Director: Esteban Ramírez
29.01.2020: This review was first published on 26.05.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello! Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
Esteban Ramírez guided the Costa Rican drama movie Imprisoned, original title Presos. It tells the story of the friendship between a young student and an inmate of the local Correctional Facility.
World Cup Historic
The Costa Rican Football Team was founded in 1921 and since then, became one of the best teams from CONCACAF.
Costa Rica has five qualifications for World Cup, including its run in 2014, when they classified in the Death Group, leaving behind the World Champions Italy and England.
The astonishing run stopped in the quarter-finals, after holding a nill-nill draw against the Netherlands, they lost on a penalty shoot-out.
In 2018 they didn’t have such an incredible run, finishing last of the group with only one point.
The data I’ll provide in this section seems to be the most complete and up to date, but if you have more recent statistics, please, provide it in the comments. Thanks.
According to Costa Rica’s Ministerio de Justicia y Paz (Peace and Justice Ministry), the prison population in Costa Rica grew by 50 percent from 2005 to 2015, making the prison overcrowded, causing Human Rights violations (Source).
In 2015 there were 35 thousand people in the correctional system as a whole, and more than 14 thousand of those are incarcerated. While the prison population grew, the penitentiary system didn’t, resulting in facilities incapable to properly hold these individuals (Source).
At the end of 2017, the total Prison population was more than 19 thousand individuals, a rate of 374 per 100.000 inhabitants, the fourth highest in Latin America and 19th in the world (Source).
The young student Victoria (played by Natalia Arias) gets a job as a personal assistant of John Jairo (played by Alejandro Aguilar). One of her functions is answering his work phone and writing down the messages.
One time, while answering these calls, she engages with Jason (played by Leynar Gomez), an inmate in the San Rafael Correctional Facility, and the two begin a friendship through the phone..
Due to the prejudice with inmates, the friendship between these two young individuals begins to cause problems with Victoria’s family, and with her jealous boyfriend, but that’s not stopping her.
After some time since the beginning of their friendship, Victoria meets Jason’s family, visits him in jail, and even starts to do little errands he asks her to. The relationship ends up changing her life completely.
In 1975, Víctor Ramírez directed a short documentary called Los Presos, available on YouTube, showing the deplorable conditions of those living in the Antigua Penitenciaria Central (today, Museo del Niño).
Víctor Ramírez is the father of Esteban Ramírez, the director of Imprisoned. The documentary is mentioned in the ending credits as an inspiration to the fictional movie.
The plot is pretty simple, is just the story of this friendship, how it unfolds since the beginning. Of course, there are some conflicts along the way, but nothing cheesy or over the top, everything that happens is believable inside this situation.
In some moments, it’s a light and cheerful movie, and others it gets a little tenser. In spite of being about the taboos around imprisoned people, there’s a lot of the relationship starting, dancing, smiling, and happy conversations.
One of the issues the movie depicts is about the relation between inmates and society as a whole, represented in the film by Victoria’s middle-class family and friends. But there’s more.
Even with the prison life being the most apparent theme, the movie has a lot about relationships in general. We have friendship, romantic relationships, family harmony, and even workplace relationships, to some extent.
A recurring topic in the dialogues throughout the movie is that happiness is not something we can only find in a romantic relationship, but something we have to find within ourselves. Especially in the case of John Jairo and Victoria’s sister, Priscila (played by Jennifer Sánchez).
Furthermore, symbolically, Victoria is also imprisoned, but her prison is social rather than material. Victoria’s family seems to be a trivial middle-class family, religious, full of prejudices, and expectations for her.
Besides the family, Victoria has a boyfriend, Emanuel (played by Daniel Marin), but since the beginning of the movie, we can see that he is an awful boyfriend. He disdains the importance of her work, makes her drop out of school, and so on.
The abusive nature of their relationship is subtle, and people might even have some sympathy for his character, but those who know how to identify unhealthy relationships will probably see it as such.
For Emanuel and Victoria’s mother, the only thing that defines Jason is his status as an inmate. Jason is probably a better human being than Emanuel, even though his relationship with Victoria is not an example of healthy, as well.
The intolerant idea of a part of society is like that. Being a loathsome individual who never committed a criminal offense, is perceived as a better person than someone benign who committed a wrongdoing.
The film does well representing the hypocrisy in society while showing the life of people incarcerated and for those who care for them. Society tries to dehumanize inmates, but Imprisoned does the opposite, humanizing those who are treated as less than human.
Natalia Arias and Leynar Gomez give worthy performances in the leading roles. I’m fond of Leynar because of his role as Limón in Narcos, one of my favorite series, but Natalia is the one who shines the most in Imprisoned.
Both characters also have interesting points. Victoria is a sassy young woman, full of life and wit, but hints at naivety, while Jason is a streetwise, petty criminal, and probably a liar.
The cinematography was one of the weak spots for my taste. It’s not bad, it’s just not that good, or as Comrade Dyatlov says in Chernobyl: not great, not terrible.
The scenes set in prison were filmed in the Centro Penal Puesto 10 (Correctional Facility Station 10) with the participation of the inmates. It’s different than what we see in American films, and I think is intriguing to see a different perspective.
Another central place the movie sets in is Victoria’s house, but distinct from the real prison, the house is less compelling. It’s a typical family house, but lifeless, almost depressing.
It’s an efficient movie, very humane and with moments of light fun and others of seriousness. Being a look at the Costa Rican society, but also say a lot about the reality in many other countries. There’s no major flaw in the movie, it’s just not all that good, 7 Moons.