June 5, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Carlos Cuarón
Spanish with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera region, the comedy/drama film “Amalgama” features an all-Latin cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: During a trip to attend a dental convention, four dentists share a beach house and have conflicts over past and present rivalries and jealousies.
Culture Audience: “Amalgama” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s cast members, but even these fans’ patience will be tested by this movie’s messy and uninteresting story about adult relationships.
Utterly pointless and often tiresome, “Amalgama” is a comedy/drama that fails to be funny or intriguing. It’s essentially about four annoying dentists who play mind games and argue with each other while sharing a beach house during a business trip. Too many scenes in “Amalgama” seem to be building up to something interesting, but then ultimately go nowhere or just end up falling flat.
Possibly the best thing about “Amalgama” is the gorgeous beach scenery, since the movie was filmed on location in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera region. The movie’s insufferable characters and their time-wasting self-indulgences ruin the movie because of the film’s lousy screenplay and lackluster direction. Carlos Cuarón directed “Amalgama,” a forgettable flop that he co-wrote with Luis Usabiaga.
In “Amalgama,” an annual convention for dental professionals is taking place on the Mayan Riviera. The movie begins with convention attendees gathered for a speech by Dr. Hugo Vera (played by Miguel Rodarte), who also gives a visual presentation about a groundbreaking procedure to replace rotting teeth. Dr. Vera’s presentation is very well-received by the clapping audience, until he’s interrupted by a younger dentist named Dr. Avelino Magaña (played by Francis Cruz), who angrily stands up in the crowd and accuses Dr. Vera of stealing his treatment idea.
Dr. Vera vehemently denies it, but the presentation comes to an abrupt and awkward end. This accusation becomes the talk of the convention. Unfortunately, this intriguing part of the story gets completely ignored for most of the movie until it’s rushed in again as an afterthought and addressed in a flimsy and not-very-believable way.
After this speech, several of the convention attendees attend a cocktail party at a restaurant/bar. Four of these party attendees end up talking to each other and decide to share a beach house for the remainder of their business trip. At this beach house, these four dentists (and people who watch this movie) go through various levels of discomfort. It doesn’t help that all four of these dentists are unlikable in different ways. The more time that viewers spend with these four egomaniacs, the less likable these characters become.
Here are the four blowhards at the center of the story:
- Dr. José María Chema Gómez (played by Manolo Cardona) is a talkative neurotic who is either bisexual or who doesn’t put a label on his sexuality. It’s mentioned in the story that he’s had romances with men and women. He’s currently in a relationship with a very jealous and possessive live-in boyfriend named Omar (played by Alejandro Calva), an older man who is paranoid that José is going to cheat on him. Omar and José have been together for 12 years, and their relationship has reached a crossroads because of Omar’s mistrust.
- Dr. Elena Durán (played by Stephanie Cayo) is a bachelorette having an affair with her married boss Conrado Barona (voiced by Mario Cersósimo), who is also at the convention but is never seen in the movie. Elena and Conrado communicate by phone calls or text messages throughout the movie. Elena doesn’t think that being Conrado’s mistress means that she can’t get involved with anyone else. Elena (who thinks she’s quite the seductress) openly talks about being interested in dating other people.
- Dr. Saúl Bravo (played by Tony Dalton) is a married father who loves his wife Tamara (played by Ximena Herrera), nicknamed Tammy. But ever since their young son Ricky was born, the couple’s sex life has dwindled. Saúl has a wandering eye and seems to be thinking about cheating on his wife. During the course of the movie, Saúl (who’s the only one of the four dentists who’s married and a parent) gets teased by the others for being the “boring husband and father” in the group. At times, Saúl tries to prove them wrong.
- Dr. Hugo Vera is a bachelor who can be considered a “mama’s boy.” He lives with his ailing mother, who has Hugo at her beck and call. A home nurse aide helps take care of the mother’s medical needs, but Hugo and his mother are extremely co-dependent on each other for emotional needs. During the course of the movie, Hugo and his mother call each other multiple times. He’s worried about her health, while his mother always wants to know what Hugo is doing. Needless to say, Hugo’s close attachment to his mother has negatively affected his love life. He often gets teased by Saúl because Hugo is a lovelorn bachelor who has a mother with too much control over him.
Hugo and Saúl have resentments and rivalries that go back several years. This tension has to do with Saúl and Hugo competing over the same woman and the same job in the past. Therefore, expect to see several scenes with Hugo and Saúl bickering as their bad feelings toward each other frequently erupt.
José and Elena are acquaintances who know each other from attending this convention and seeing each other at other professional events. On this particular trip, they flirt with each other and show a definite sexual attraction to each other. In fact, at various points in the story, all three men show a sexual attraction to Elena, who uses this lust to manipulate them.
At the cocktail party, all four of these dentists end up talking together in a group when Saúl mentions that he’s staying at a great beach house (with private access to a beach) that’s owned by a friend who’s letting Saúl stay in the house while the friend is away. Saúl tells the other three dentists that there’s plenty of room in the house for all four them and that the house is a much better environment than a boring hotel. The other three eagerly accept Saúl’s invitation and go to the house, which is on a private island, so they have to travel by boat to get there.
Once they get to the house, the ego posturing starts between all four people. Elena knows she’s a very attractive woman, so she delights in getting the men sexually aroused when she’s walking or lounging around in a skimpy bikini, sometimes topless. Hugo and Saúl have several arguments, where they make digs at each other about their personal lives. Meanwhile, José and Elena flirt with each other some more, in a tedious “will they or won’t they hook up” subplot.
During this heavy flirtation, José is troubled by a series of phone calls that he gets from insecure Omar, who becomes enraged when he finds out about José’s change of plans to stay at a beach house with three people whom Omar doesn’t know. Omar irrationally accuses José of being at the house for orgies with these other dentists. This overblown drama with Omar leads to some occurrences that go from bad to worse.
Before the melodrama kicks into overdrive, there’s a badly staged plot contrivance of the four temporary housemates getting stranded on a boat that doesn’t have an emergency radio. They get stuck in the ocean when the boat’s engine suddenly stops working, and there’s no one else or any land in sight. Foolishly, these four dentists didn’t bring enough food with them in case they could get stranded for several hours, but they have enough alcoholic beverages to quench their thirst. And, of course, getting stranded on a boat while drinking alcohol leads to more arguments about how they’re going to get out of this predicament.
And there’s also a dull subplot about Elena’s boss/lover Conrado trying to get in touch with her because she has documents that he needs her to email for his upcoming lecture at the convention. But surprise! This remote beach area doesn’t have WiFi access, and the cell phone service is erratic and unreliable. Conrado’s wife (who’s never seen in the movie) has also unexpectedly shown up at the convention, so that affects how he’s communicating with Elena, who starts to wonder if its worth it to stay in this affair with Conrado.
“Amalgama” could have been a much better movie if there had been more purpose to the story than showing four people arguing a lot, with much of the conflicts coming from sexual tension. The movie predictably has some secrets that are revealed, but those secrets are utterly predictable and underwhelming. None of the acting in this movie is special. “Amalgama” is about four people who went to this getaway island for a retreat, but viewers of “Amalgama” will want to get away from these four unpleasant people as fast as possible.
Soul Pictures released “Amalgama” in select U.S. cinemas on April 15, 2022. The movie was released in Mexico in 2021.