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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Radical (M) - 126 minutes

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein said that.

 

And so it is in Matamoros, Mexico in 2012, when a new, idealistic teacher by the name of Sergio Jaurez Correa arrives at Jose Urbina Lopez Elementary School.

We’re in a poor neighbourhood where poverty is entrenched, crime is rampant and corruption omnipotent.

 

In many cases, due to basic survival needs, children are dropping out of school very early.

 

There is a set curriculum, with a national test of knowledge based on that curriculum at the end of each year.

 

Only Sergio Juarez Correa (Eugenio Derbez) stirs the pot and totally upends conventional thinking about how to teach children and get through to them.

 

In the process, he tests the patience and understanding of the school principal Chuco (Daniel Haddad), gets other teachers offside and risks his career.

Correa’s philosophy is simple – get the children (he teaches grade 6) engaged, so they want to learn and have the chance to live up to their potential.

 

He does so by making education fun … by turning the playground into a classroom, but he hardly has things all his own way.

 

Radical, which is based on a true story, focuses on Correa, his passion and conviction and the impact he has on those with whom he comes into contact.

 

We also get a firm read on the head of the school and a handful of Correa’s 12-year-old students – three in particular.

 

Among them is Paloma Noyola (Jennifer Trejo), quiet but whip smart. She lives with her father (Gilberto Barraza), next to a rubbish dump.

He barely manages to scrape by collecting and selling scrap metal. Paloma aspires to be an aerospace engineer, on the way to becoming an astronaut.

 

Lupe (Mia Fernanda Solis) is the oldest child in her family and responsible for looking after her younger siblings. She has a fascination with philosophy.

 

And then there’s Nico (Danilo Guardiola), who is destined for a life of crime, like his older brother Chepe (Victor Estrada), when his teacher turns his head.

 

This is their story and the story of every other student touched by Correa.

I was deeply moved by what I saw. I openly wept … several times.


Full of joy and heartache, Radical is a remarkable tale of fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds.

 

While the story itself is compelling, it is undoubtedly the characters that make the film as good as it is.

 

As the title suggests, Correa is a revolutionary of sorts, who changed the status quo and made possible what, for all intents and purposes, had been impossible.

 

Derbez approaches the role with humour and heart.

He is such a natural, as is the good-natured Haddad as the principal, incredulous at what he is witnessing.

 

Then there are the children, salt of the earth, credible, each with their distinct personalities – wide eyed and pragmatic, but who dare to dream.

 

Sure, as the premise unfolds, I could tell that I was being manipulated to feel a certain way, but I totally bought in to what was being sold.

 

Director of photography Mateo Londono has made the most of evocative third world settings.

 

The film is based on a 2013 article in Wired magazine by Joshua Davis, titled A Radical Way of Unleashing a Generation of Geniuses.

With a superbly rendered script and fine direction from Christopher Zalla, Radical shows how one person can make a difference for the greater good.

 

Rated M, it scores an 8½ out of 10.

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