TFF’09-Paola Mendoza shines in Entre Nos

Actor and filmmaker Paola Mendoza makes it all look so easy. She directed “Entre Nos,” a Colombian-American film in the TFF’09 Discovery series, without a single false note and also gives the strongest lead performance I have seen thus far at this short Tribeca Festival. I would say, in fact, that it’s the best performance I have seen in a while. She plays Mariana, a Colombian mother of two who moves to New York City with her two children and her husband. Two weeks later, her husband leaves them under a pretense of work in Miami. But he never sends for them. Mariana, who speaks no English, is forced to fend for herself on her own with two children.

It’s always gratifying to see a story about betrayal and survival treated without melodrama or sentimentality—it can be done. The mother and her children keep their dignity, even as they scrap metal cans from the trash and find allies in strangers. Plus, Mendoza keeps the narrative going at a brisk tempo so that you’re never squirming uncomfortably in your seat, wondering when you’ll see the end credits. And “Entre Nos” is not entirely predictable, either, although you hope for a happy ending. And even though there are a lot of potential dangers on this family’s path, New York City also happens to have its share of good samaritans, such as Preet (Sarita Choudury) who helps Mariana during a particularly bad bout. Playing Mariana was a feat and Paola Mendoza accomplished it flawlessly.

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