The Crime of Father Amaro, sometimes The Crime of Padre Amaro, (Spanish: El crimen del padre Amaro) is a 2002 Mexican-Spanish film directed by Carlos Carrera. It is very loosely based on the novel O Crime do Padre Amaro (1875) by 19th-century Portuguese writer José Maria de Eça de Queiroz. The film starred Gael García Bernal, Ana Claudia Talancón and Sancho Gracia. It premiered on 16 August 2002 in Mexico City.
When it was released, The Crime of Father Amaro caused a controversy on the part of Roman Catholic groups in Mexico who tried to stop the film from being screened. They failed, and the film became the biggest box office draw ever in the country, beating previous record holder, Sexo, pudor y lágrimas (1999).
In the United States of America, this film also enjoyed commercial success; this film's United States distributor paid less than $1 million to acquire the film's North American distribution rights, and the film went on to gross $5.7 million in limited theatrical release in the United States.
At the 75th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Newly ordained Padre Amaro arrives in Los Reyes, a small town in the fictional state of Aldama, to start his life serving the church. He is a protégé of a ruthless political bishop, while the local priest, Father Benito, is having a long ongoing affair with a local restaurant owner. Benito is building a large hospital and recuperation center, which is partially funded by a cartel's drug lord. Meanwhile, another priest in the area, Father Natalio, is under investigation for supporting left-wing insurgents in his secluded rural church area.
Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón), a local 16-year-old girl, teaches catechism to the young children in the town, and is the daughter of Benito's mistress. At the start of the story, she is contemplating marriage to Rubén (Andrés Montiel), a young journalist beginning his career, but tension is depicted as Rubén is a non-believer and Amelia strongly Catholic. Rubén's father is an avowed anti-clerical atheist who is unpopular within the town for his strong opinions.
Amaro soon becomes infatuated with Amelia, who is strongly attracted to him and asks awkward questions about love and sin in the confessional, admitting that she masturbates to Jesus. She later touches his hand while serving him at the restaurant. The newspaper is tipped off about Benito baptising the drug lord's newborn child, and Rubén is asked to write about the scandals in his hometown. With the aid of mountains of evidence compiled by his father, he publishes a story about Benito's hospital being a front for money laundering. The church has Amaro write a denial and Rubén is then sacked by the newspaper under pressure from the Catholic lobby. Amelia then phones Rubén and dumps him, berating him with a string of obscenities. Rubén's family home is vandalized by devout Catholics and when he returns home, he assaults Amaro when he sees him in the street. Amaro decides not to press charges, so Rubén avoids jail time.
The film delves into the struggle priests have between desire and obedience. Amaro is plagued with guilt about his feelings for Amelia. When the local press begins to reveal the secrets of the parish, Amaro turns to his superior, Padre Benito (Sancho Gracia).
Amaro and Amelia start an affair, and Amaro cites verses from the Song of Songs as he seduces her. Later he drapes a robe meant for the statue of Virgin Mary over Amelia during a secret meeting. After Amelia becomes pregnant with Amaro's child, he tries to convince her to leave town to protect him. Later, she decides to try to trick the town by trying to pass off Rubén as the father. She tries to reunite with him and organize a wedding at short notice so that the baby can be attributed to him, but he tells her he is no longer interested. When Benito threatens to report Amaro, Amaro threatens to retaliate over Benito's affair. Eventually, Amaro arranges for a backstreet abortion in the middle of the night. It goes wrong and Amelia begins bleeding uncontrollably. Amaro drives her to the hospital in a large city, but she is already dead before he gets there. The lurid details of the case are suppressed; Benito and a cynical old woman know what has happened. A false story is passed around the town, blaming Rubén for impregnating Amelia before marriage, and praising Amaro for breaking into the abortion clinic and liberating Amelia in a failed attempt to save her and her child. Amaro presides over Amelia's funeral; the church is packed with mourners. Benito, now using a wheelchair, leaves in disgust.Gael García Bernal – Padre Amaro
Ana Claudia Talancón – Amelia
Sancho Gracia – Padre Benito
Luisa Huertas – Dionisia
Andrés Montiel – Rubén
Damián Alcázar – Padre Natalio
Ernesto Gómez Cruz – Bishop
Gastón Melo – Martin
Angélica Aragón – Sanjuanera
The Crime of Father Amaro sparked a controversy in Mexico at the time of its release, with Catholic bishops and organizations asking people not to see it and demanding that the government ban it.
The film was nominated for over 30 awards, including an Academy Awards nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2003, winning 19.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes counted 82 reviews with a 62% approval rating. The average rating is 6.2/10. The critics consensus on the website states that "Though melodramatic, El Crimen del Padre Amaro's critique of the Catholic church is a timely one." On Metacritic, it has a score of 60 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews" based on 29 critic reviews.