The Child With The Man In His Eyes: Abel

The Child With The Man In His Eyes: Abel

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Network Releasing 

Release date: April 25th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 79 minutes

Original language: Spanish with English subtitles

Director: Diego Luna

Writers: Augusto Mendoza, Diego Luna

Cast: Geraldine Alejandra, Christopher Ruiz-Esparza, Gerardo Ruiz-Esparza

I’ve often heard about children taking on the role of an adult in households where parents are away at work a lot or just absent.

An eldest son may take to doing the grocery shopping or paying the bills, a daughter might see to the cooking and helping others with homework, but here’s a story where a child goes that little bit further to help his family out.


Poor little Abel (Christopher Ruiz-Esparza). He’s just been released into his mother’s care for a week from a psychiatric ward to return home where his younger brother Paul (Gerardo Ruíz-Esparza) and older sister Selene (Geraldine Alejandra) also live. They’re a poor family and they’re barely able to afford medicine for him.

Abel’s problem is that he’s stopped talking, but once he’s home again, his behaviour becomes even odder. There’s a short moment of joy when he utters his first word again, but the joy soon turns to concern as Abel begins to take on the role of his absent father, behaving more and more like a fully-grown adult.


He fixes the tank in the toilet, asks Selene to explain her “C” grade before he signs her report card and tries to help her with algebra, only he doesn’t understand fractions yet and mistakes the date for one of the sums. He has better luck helping Paul putting whiskers on his drawing of a cat and making the eyes bigger.

His mother, Cecilia (Karina Gidi), doesn’t want to worsen his condition or let him go back to the ward so they go along with his behaviour, but when Abel’s father shows up, the child begins to struggle with his role in the family.


Abel is a warm and tender film, which at the same time is heartbreaking as we watch an unwell child try to adjust to a world that’s just too big for him.

Christopher Ruiz-Esparza, who was just 9 years old at the time of filming, captures the essence of a troubled boy with perfection. He walks like a middle-aged man, gestures like one and even his eyes evoke a sense of world-weariness as he tries to fill the void left in his life and his family’s by his father.

Diego Luna’s direction and the cinematography, together with the writing, fills the screen with beautiful moments, such as when Abel hangs pictures on the wall…they’re of course only at his height. We grow increasingly worried about Abel’s condition as he takes it upon himself to cross interview Selene’s boyfriend and even moves into his mother’s bedroom, but Luna thankfully never lets the story sink to the depths of being truly psychologically disturbing.


  • Abel Chile Premiere video Diary (21.58)
  • BFI Education Screening Q&A (24.49)
  • iViva! Q&A (5.38)
  • 2010 Interview (16.47)
  • Trailer (2.11)
  • Image Gallery (4.38)


Instead, the story maintains a good balance between comedy and drama, allowing Ruiz-Esparza to really shine when he realises, despite what his name suggests, that he’s not always able to the things he thinks he can.

Network Releasing’s home release features a collection of interviews and Q&A’s with Luna and Ruiz-Esparza and it’s wonderful to hear them talk about working on the film. A collection of production and promotional stills round off the special features nicely.

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