Sunday, January 29, 2023

Beyond ‘Werewolf by Night’: Exploring the Work of Gael García Bernal

FANDOMARTIST SPOTLIGHTBeyond 'Werewolf by Night': Exploring the Work of Gael García Bernal

Actor, director, producer, and activist Gael García Bernal has an on-screen career spanning from when he was teenager acting in soap operas to, most recently, Werewolf by Night for Marvel Studios. The actor has had an impressive career both on-screen and off, being the first Mexican actor to be accepted into the prestigious London School of Speech and Drama at age 19 and appearing in several of the most successful and recognizable films from his home country.

The common themes of love and freedom in the majority of Bernal’s film and television appearances make his work accessible and understandable to audiences worldwide and have spurred Bernal to be recognized as one of the best actors of the generation.

Take a look at some of our favorite projects on Bernal’s résumé and some of what the future holds for him below.

FILMS

Amores Perros (2000)

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In this tale of intertwining stories, three separate people are brought together through a horrifying accident. Octavio is trying to save money by taking his dog to participate in dog fights so he can run away with his brother’s wife to safe her from the abuse she endures. Following a series of violent events, Octavio crashes his car due to reckless driving and crushes another woman’s car. Valeria is a model whose life is transformed by the accident, and a homeless man who kills people for a living and loves dogs takes advantage of the accident by stealing Octavio’s money. The story is a harsh portrait on the realities of love and losing love. In the film, then-relatively unknown Bernal takes on the role of Octavio and beautifully showcases a spectrum of emotion and transformation.

Available to stream on Prime Video.

Gael García Bernal as “Julio” & Diego Luna as “Tenoch” in ‘Y Tu Mamá También’, 20th Century Fox

Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

This coming-of-age film follows two young men and an older woman who embark on a trip together to discover themselves, life, friendship, and love — though some of the realizations they face are difficult to comprehend. This tragic story is a complex study on how politics influence everything in our lives, including our behavior and sexuality and is told flawlessly through simple storytelling. Y Tu Mamá También is raw, filled with realistic and relatable conversations and inter-character dynamics, heartbreaking, alluring, and life affirming. Starring in the film with lifelong friend Diego Luna resulted in phenomenal chemistry between the two male leads and after viewing the film, it won’t come as a surprise that this is the role that began to see Bernal receive recognition.

Available to stream on Prime Video with a premium subscription or to rent/purchase on multiple platforms.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

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Based on Che Guevara’s personal memoirs, this film chronicles the journeys he undertook in his youth alongside his friend Alberto Granado. Their journeys during this time are what made Guevara realize the inequality and injustice rife in the region and would ultimately inspire him to make a difference and address these issues. Arguably the start to his international recognition thanks to his continued dedication to the role and mesmerizing performance, The Motorcycle Diaries features Bernal taking on the role of Guevara for the second time after portraying the Cuban leader in the miniseries Fidel. Bernal did extensive research for the role, including reading the same books Guevara read and meeting with the man’s family to formulate a better understanding of the man he was charged with bringing to screen.

Available to rent or purchase on multiple platforms.

Bad Education (2004)

Continually heralded as Bernal’s greatest performance, Bad Education showcases the actor in a trio of roles, a task that despite its difficulties Bernal delivers on flawlessly. Portraying Ángel, an up-and-coming actress, first and foremost, the film follows the story of her as she presents her screenplay to a young director, Enrique, agreeing to do the film if she can portray the lead — Zahara. The pair grew up together as children in a Catholic boarding school where the pair fell in love and she, known at the time as her birth name Ignacio, was sexually abused by the priest. Interweaving storylines and subplots never feel over-burdened in the film and audiences are left with a film that is beautiful, twisted, and daunting — a completely appropriate exploration of the emotions that come with trauma. Bernal’s performance is emotionally gripping and ruthless as the film progresses.

Available to rent or purchase on multiple platforms.

Gael García Bernal as “Maziar” in ‘Rosewater’, Open Road Films

Rosewater (2014)

Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater is based on the autobiographical book by Maziar Bahari, Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival. The film stars Bernal as Canadian-Iranian journalist, Maziar, who leaves his home and pregnant wife in London to return to his hometown in Iran in order to cover the presidential election. Following the election, it does not take long for Maziar to come to the conclusion that the results were manipulated. Choosing to film the ensuing protests no matter how bad they get results in Maziar being imprisoned in isolation for the next 118 days of his life. During his imprisonment he is met with daily psychological and physical torture.

Rosewater proves that Bernal’s history of taking roles that explore the human condition and the importance of democracy and freedom is by no accident and that the actor uses his career to showcase the devastation of living under oppressive governments.

Available to rent or purchase on multiple platforms.

You’re Killing Me Susana (2016)

In You’re Killing Me Susana, an actor with a rather one-sided view on what fidelity means for his marriage, finds his world is turned upside down when he wakes one morning to discover his wife has left him to move to Iowa to pursue a career in writing. The film’s lead roles — Eligio and Susana — are both abrasive and wildly flawed, resulting in shifting sympathies from an audiences’ standpoint as the the story progresses. The role doesn’t require Bernal to dig quite as deep as he did earlier in his career with much more intense roles to portray, thanks to the substantially lighter tone compared to much of his other projects. While it is certainly not a perfect film, it is a wonderful opportunity to watch Bernal act through seemingly the entire spectrum of human emotion in a way that almost makes it look effortless.

It’s not available to stream, but should be added to a watchlist should it ever become available.

Coco (2017)

Following the story of Miguel as he leaves his home to travel to the Land of the Dead after music has been banned from his home in the search for his famous singer great-great-grandfather, Coco was a box office hit and unsurprising Oscar winner. The animated film from Pixar is consistent with their track record of creating heartfelt and tearjerking stories about the familial bond. Coco is Bernal’s first venture into voice acting, and not only did he provide a wonderful and expressive speaking voice to Hector, he also can be heard singing throughout the film, particularly in the Oscar-winning song “Remember Me.”

Available to stream on Disney+.

Gael García Bernal as “Guy” in ‘Old’, Universal Pictures

Old (2021)

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan based on a graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, Old takes the form of a thriller-mystery in which a family finds themselves on a beach amongst strangers as all of them age rapidly. Old has everything you’d expect of a Shyamalan film — masterful camerawork and a third act twist that will leave you reeling. The film is ambiguous, original, and well-paced, with Bernal delivering an exceptionally emotional central performance as a father and husband in the midst of divorce faced with this unfathomable situation.

Available to stream on HBO Max.

SERIES

Mozart in the Jungle (2014-2018)

If you’ve never considered yourself a fan of western classical music, giving Prime Video’s Mozart in the Jungle a watch may change your mind. Though it was tragically cancelled after a near perfect four season run, the series serves as a wonderful piece of escapist media following the genius level talent Rodrigo, the new and often badly behaved conductor for the New York Symphony Orchestra. Bernal stars as the unpredictable, irrational, fun, and compassionate Rodrigo in the series and delivers a performance consistent with his repertoire, resulting in yet another lovable character on his résumé. His performance in Mozart in the Jungle awarded him with his first Golden Globe.

Available to stream on Prime Video.

Station Eleven (2021-2022)

Through masterful directing, HBO’s miniseries Station Eleven offers a surreal slow-burn of phenomenal storytelling. With wonderful casting combined with beautiful cinematography and scoring, it pushes the envelope for creative storytelling and results in an intricately woven tale with many layers to peel back and analyze. The miniseries is an exploration of post-apocalyptic horrors, and while the expected air of despair is ever-present, it’s beautiful to watch human creativity endure in a post-apocalyptic future. The series insists that viewers ask questions, big questions at that — the importance of community, history, and art — all while keeping you intensely emotionally engaged.

While Bernal’s role as Arthur Leander is set in the pre-pandemic timeline and therefore a supporting role and he only appears in a few of the miniseries’ episodes, he is integral to the story and pivotal to setting the plot in-motion.

Available to stream on HBO Max.

OFF THE SCREEN

Gael García Bernal in the ‘El Tema’ documentary series, La Corriente del Golfo

In addition to his work on the screen, Bernal devotes much of his time to environmental activism and addressing the climate change crisis. Under his shared production banner La Corriente del Golfo, which he started with Luna, the documentary series El Tema explores various contributing factors to the climate crisis and the effects of these topics consistently underrepresented areas are seeing in their communities as a result.

While the work Bernal does on-screen is worthy of praise, his environmental activism is invaluable. Season 2 of the series made its run on the company’s YouTube channel this Fall and specifically focused on Bernal’s hometown — Mexico City. The four episodes are available to watch now at the following links:

Ep. 1 “Air”: http://youtu.be/F3-NyXvp4UI
Ep. 2 “Water”: http://youtu.be/6ic4EKmmZ7I
Ep. 3 “Energy”: http://youtu.be/OgxwjsWNk-M
Ep. 4 “Mobility”: http://youtu.be/5AbDnB4caxc

UPCOMING

The Mother (May 2023)

The upcoming thriller from Netflix follows a deadly assassin who comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she gave up years ago while on the run from dangerous men. The film also stars Jennifer Lopez, Joseph Fiennes, Lucy Paez, Omari Hardwick, and Paul Raci and is expected on the streaming service May 2023. The trailer for the film can be viewed here.

La Máquina (TBD)

This upcoming limited series from Hulu follows an aging boxer whose crafty manager secures him one last shot at securing a title. Bernal will star in the series as the boxer alongside Luna taking on the role of the crafty manager. The pair’s production banner, La Corriente del Golfo, is also producing the series which will also showcase Eiza González, Karina Gidi, Raul Briones, and Luis Gnecco in the cast. A release date for La Máquina has yet to be announced.

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