Sundance 2021: Son of Monarchs

Tenoch Huerta Mejía appears in Son of Monarchs by Alexis Gambis, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Son of Monarchs holds its international premiere this Sundance as the winner of this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.

A Mexican biologist, Mendel (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), calls New York home for the moment but he returns home upon his grandmother’s death.  Family relationships have changed since leaving for New York.  You can sense some bitterness coming from older brother Simon.  The two of them were left as orphans following their parents death in a flood.  Mendel’s original home just happens to be in a monarch butterfly forest.  This trip forces Mendel to face his past and contemplate life in general.  What this remains for his future remains to be determined.  Moreover, what will it mean for his relationship with his girlfriend with all the back and forth?

Writer-director Alexis Gambis gives this film multiple layers.  On one level, there is the biologist returning from the United States to Mexico.  But on another level. we see the migration of butterflies across three countries.  There is a deeper meaning here about the climate surrounding immigration.  Animals cross the border all the time.  Humans, however, require a whole lot of red tape in order to cross the border.  What initially brings Mendel to the United States is the chance to get a higher education.  Along with this comes increasing opportunities because of said education.

But in as much as we think this is a film about immigration, it simply is not.  Nor is it a film about being documented or undocumented.  It’s about one man and why he decides to return home.  Will this decision have lasting implications on his career?  In all likelihood, yes.  The most important thing that matters is how Mendel feels about his decision.

Gambis is also a biologist in real life.  In this sense, he seeks to tell a story that draws upon his own identity.  Ultimately, he presents this concept of science in a way that goes against cinematic stereotypes.

At the end of the day, Son of Monarchs is about finding meaning in one’s life whether this is in one country or another.

CAST: Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Alexia Rasmussen, Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez, Noé Hernández, Paulina Gaitán, William Mapother

Son of Monarchs holds its international premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.