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The Crimes That Bind

The Crimes That Bind is a 2020 Argentine film directed by Sebastián Schindel, written by Pablo Del Teso and Sebastián Schindel and starring Cecilia Roth, Miguel Ángel Solá and Sofía Gala Castiglione. The Crimes That Bind was released on August 20, 2020 on Netflix.

Plot

In this understated film, Alicia, played by Cecilia Roth, the mother of Daniel, played by Benjamín Amadeo, is blinded by her unconditional love for her 35-year-old son, and unable to even consider the possibility that he could be guilty of assault, rape, stalking, and violence against women. The film begins with Alicia hosting her socialite friends in their Buenos Aires, Argentina apartment in one of the capital city's most luxurious neighborhoods, where she lives with her 70-year-old retired engineer husband, Ignacio, played by Miguel Ángel Solá, her live-in maid Gladys, played by Yanina Ávila, and Gladys's 3-year old son, Santiago (Santi), who calls Alicia, Auntie. Gladys has a humble background. Her mother had died when she was about three or four years old and she lived with her father, who neglected and abused her in a remote forested area. She became an unpaid servant to her father's second wife and her step-siblings until her teen years, when she escaped to Buenos Aires with the help of a neighbor, where she was hired by Alicia. Both Alicia and her husband were portrayed as dignified and courteous, while Gladys was portrayed as "simple" and slow. These assumptions are unsettled as the story unfolds involving two court cases and prison sentences. Daniel stands trial and is imprisoned for the attempted murder of his ex-wife, Marcela, played by Sofía Gala Castiglione. Gladys is accused and convicted of murder for suffocating her newborn baby in her living quarters in Alicia and Ignacio's home. For most of the film, Gladys is portrayed as a passive, emotionless prisoner, who remains silent in her own defense, which made it impossible for her lawyer, Vieytes, to help her. She received a particularly harsh punishment of 17 years of imprisonment. Alicia is present in both courtrooms. At the conclusion of Gladys's trial, to Vieytes' surprise, Gladys made a statement in which she apologized to Alicia for the mistreatment she had been subjected to in court, and thanked Alicia for taking such good care of Santi. She asked the court to grant Alicia custody of Santi. In Daniel's court case, evidence against him mounted, and it appeared that he will be found guilty. Alicia's wealthier friends abandon her. The administration at Santi's expensive preschool tells her that she should enroll him in a school with more diversity where he would better fit in. In her confusion and in desperation to help her son—who she believed to be innocent—Alicia decided to hire an expensive criminal defense lawyer. Ignacio warned Alicia that the lawyer she wanted to hire was unscrupulous—he was known for using expensive bribes and other means outside the courts to win his cases. When she told Ignacio that she wanted to downsize to a less expensive apartment and to cut spending in order to hire this lawyer, Ignacio told her that he was leaving her. Santi misses his mother Gladys. Alicia takes him to the prison where Gladys is held. It is her first visit with Gladys since she was imprisoned. Alicia had strongly criticized Gladys for her actions when she testified against her in court. She also lied under oath when she denied about warning Gladys that if she got pregnant a second time there would be consequences. Vieytes suggested that Gladys motivation for killing her own newborn, was partly out of fear of losing both her secure job and her housing. During the prison visit, Gladys told Alicia that Daniel had come to their home during a period in which he had been estranged from his parents. He had asked to come in and Gladys had let him. He then stole money from his parents and raped Gladys, leaving her pregnant. Santi was Alicia's grandson and Gladys wanted Alicia to accept custody of Santi. As part of her inner journey, which leads to accepting that her son is the perpetrator, not a victim in crimes against his ex-wife, his own young child, and Gladys, Alicia begins to understand more about the complexity of violence against women from the psychologist and activist played by Paola Barrientos. As Alicia came to understand the full implication of what Gladys had told her, she becomes an ally for both of Daniel's victims, Marcela and Gladys. She provides Marcela, and by extension, Gladys, with the crucial evidence Marcela needs to win her case against Daniel—evidence that Alicia had acquired as part of the $400,000 fee to the lawyer who had succeeded in getting Daniel released from prison by suppressing evidence. In one of the final scenes, Alicia, the psychologist and Vieytes are entering the courtroom where Gladys is appealing her sentence. The film ends with Alicia attending a family gathering with Marcela, Alicia's grandsons, with Marcela's family and friends in a much humbler but happier home than that in which the film begins.