‘Prayer to Steal’ Review: Coming of Age Among Poppies

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‘Prayer to Steal’ Review: Coming of Age Among Poppies

In the first narrative feature “Prayer for theft” by Mexican-Salvadoran documentary Tatiana Huejo, 8-year-old young girls cry as their mothers cut their long hair under the pretext of preventing head lice. In fact, his childish haircuts are meant to hide his true gender from the cartel members who terrorize his rural Mexican town.

Soon the girls will harden to the reality that plagues the sparkling and lush green highlands surrounding their remote village. These criminals kidnap, sexually assault and often leave any girl dead they can lay their hands on.

Based on Jennifer Clement’s 2014 novel of the same name, “Prays for the Stolen” is a one-sided coming-of-age film that sensitively traces the development of Anna and her two girlfriends, Paula and Maria. The girls secretly apply makeup behind their mother’s back, fantasize about their school teachers and finally get into their own little jokes. But violence limits their every desire.

The threat posed by the cartel, which operates the harvesting of opium using the cheap labor of the townspeople, undermines any sense of mediocrity. Black SUVs can charge from across the canyon without warning, forcing chicks to hide, and helicopters spraying toxic insecticides to preserve the opium-producing crop often attack during the game.

A leap in time turns girls into young women. At age 13 comes a new set of older actresses to play the girls, and their manly hairstyles aren’t fooling anyone.

The film swings back and forth from scenes of rustic bliss to brutality, creating a narrative that, despite its lack of attention, is anchored by tender and wounding performances by its teenage cast.

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In the end, tragedy strikes, a surprising turn given the irreversible circumstances, yet one that gives a girl a sudden awakening to the monumental darkness of her fate.

prayer for theft
Rated R. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters and on Netflix.

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