Echo Park, L.A. Review

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Echo Park, Los Angeles. Pregnant 14 year-old Magdalena (Rios) is thrown out of her strict home and takes shelter with aged relative Tio (González), who has already taken in her gay cousin Carlos (Garcia). Carlos gets mixed up with Tomas’ landlords, which


A quinceañera is the latino equivalent to the Jewish bat mitzvah, a formal celebration thrown for a girl when she turns 15. It’s also an excuse for a gathering of family and friends, displays of one-upmanship from the wealthier branches, harmless partying and bad-tempered brawling. The celebration which opens the film is gaudily successful, but then hangs over the life of the next girl due to turn 15, Magdalena — who resents taking her richer cousin’s hand-me-down dress, which won’t fit anyway because (though technically a virgin) she’s pregnant.

Co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, this relocates the ‘kitchen sink’ realism of British films of the early 1960s to contemporary Los Angeles. With its pregnant teenage heroine who forms a strange family unit with a saintly elderly man and a troubled but unstereotyped gay cousin, there are explicit echoes of A Taste Of Honey — but the miserabilism associated with black-and-white visions of rainy industrial cities doesn’t settle in the film’s vibrant, lively, nicely-observed Latin LA.

Quinceañera is rough around the edges but engaging — with a lot of nice detail about the large, complicated family of the main characters and a sense of the way their environment is changing as their traditional neighbourhood becomes gentrified.

Refreshingly free of the gangs, guns and drugs clichés associated with the milieu, this is a satisfying, spicy little picture.