The Amazing Catfish

This glorious 2013 debut feature by Mexican writer-director Claudia Sainte-Luce takes one of the most shopworn melodramatic premises—a dying mother and her children trying to make the best of their time together—and makes it feel spontaneous and new. The story unfolds from the perspective of an aimless young woman who is adopted, so to speak, by an eccentric single mother in the last stages of AIDS, and the ensemble has all the intimacy and volatility of a real family. Some of the most exciting moments come when Sainte-Luce simply plops her camera in the middle of the characters’ domestic bustle and lets their dynamic shape the drama’s ebb and flow; we come to regard them as a single, pulsating organism, and the film’s wry, inquisitive tone evolves into one of quiet astonishment. In Spanish with subtitles.