There have been a lot of coming-of-age-in-the-punk-scene movies, not least because indie cinema really took off in the years immediately following the heyday of punk and New Wave, when the kids raised on that music were fresh out of film school. Still, Hari Sama’s fourth feature as writer-director is something special, and one of the best of its particular subgenre.
This Is Not Berlin deploys the wisdom of the director’s now-middle-aged perspective to provide what’s not just a portrait of adolescent liberation, but a snapshot of a moment in middle-class Mexican life whose larger sociopolitical context is both present yet mostly kept in the background (as in Alfonso Cuarón’s recent Roma).
In the foreground is a vivid, often giddy, but also perilous world of hedonism for art’s sake in which the emerging threat of AIDS is seldom openly addressed yet omnipresent. With a coolness factor off the charts, this musically and otherwise seductive drama is likely to appeal to audiences who lived through the era as well as those who wish they had, both straight and gay.
Dennis Harvey, Variety