The Mighty Victoria [El poderoso Victoria] a loco dream — HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2023

Review by John P. Harvey.

A dustbowl town, La Esperanza, in Jalisco, Mexico, in the 1930s.  Durán (Gerardo Oñate), a mechanic aiming to become an engine driver in the footsteps of his late father, has learnt everything that engine driver Jacinta (Joaquín Cosio) has to teach him and is ready to earn his licence, when La Esperanza receives devastating news.  The lifeblood of the town, the local mine, is to close, and consequently the railroad company will uproot the railway tracks linking the town to the rest of civilisation, leaving the town without either a ready food supply or income.

Except for a few individuals, the entire town packs up and leaves on the last train out.  Those left behind include master mechanic Don Federico (Damián Alcázar), who proposes that they build their own steam locomotive, thereby forcing the railway to keep the tracks in place and the town from complete isolation.  Initially Durán is completely opposed to Don Federico’s crazy scheme and refuses to help.  He intends to leave town with the woman he loves, Victoria (Lorena de la Torre), and make a life for them both elsewhere.  But when that plan goes awry and Durán has a moment of enlightenment, he joins forces with the others to turn Don Federico’s loco dream into reality.

But railway baron Daniel Martinez (Daniel Martinez), determined that the enterprise should fail, places a seemingly impassible barrier in the way of its success and, what’s more, instigates a back-up plan to ensure the train’s derailment should it look like the townspeople might overcome.

Filled with likeable, quirky characters and filmed with an eye to panoramic cinema of the time, The Mighty Victoria frolics without undue sentimentality through both heartening and heart-stopping moments.  A feel-good chuckling adventure, it touches only lightly on personal tragedy and the practical obstacles that might prevent semiskilled rural workers from successfully machining the requisite huge locomotive components, to focus more on the community’s dynamics and personalities, with entertaining results.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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