New to Prime Video this week is the bio-pic film “Cassandro”. The film tells the story of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur Lucha Libre wrestler from El Paso, who becomes an international star after creating the character Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre.” It is an intimate and many times heartbreaking look at the way Armendáriz revolutionized the macho wrestling world and transformed his own life in the process. Cassandro stars Gael García Bernal as Saúl Armendáriz and is directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams.
Reinventing the World of Lucha Libre
The film centers around Saúl Armendáriz’s rise to stardom and focuses on the events that led him to become an international sensation and the relationships and experiences that paved the path for him. He took the Lucha Libre world by storm with his flamboyant “exotico” costumes, acrobatics performances, and unapologetic pride as a gay man. His rise to stardom began in the 1990s, a time that was historically unfriendly to queer communities. He challenged stereotypes and inspired others to embrace their true selves. Despite facing homophobic abuse throughout his career, he persevered in the industry and in his personal life, becoming a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and helping to make Lucha Libre a more inclusive space.
Capturing the triumph and heartache
The film is a beautiful depiction of how someone who lives a seemingly less-than-ideal life and comes from unfortunate circumstances can have an extraordinary impact on the world. It captures the loneliness, heartache, and struggle of trying to be your authentic self in a world that doesn’t want you to be. Gael García Bernal gives an incredible performance and you can feel the internal struggles in every facial expression and movement. He is able to capture the spirit and joyfulness of the Cassandro persona, while also perfectly capturing the sorrow and emotional undertaking that Saúl Armendáriz was living through in the 90s.
Outstanding supporting cast
The film captures some incredibly intimate moments with the people who surrounded the Lucha Libre star. Roberta Colindrez, Perla De La Rosa, Joaquín Cosío, and Raúl Castillo star alongside Bernal in the film. There is even a special appearance from world-famous Lucha Libre stars El Hijo del Santo and Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, known professionally as Bad Bunny.
Mexican actress Perla De La Rosa gives a perfectly uninhibited and vulnerable performance as Saúl Armendáriz’s mother, Yocasta. The scenes between the two of them are by far the most honest and beautiful of the film. Del La Rosa is able to play her part so perfectly that for a moment you forget that she is an actress. The chemistry between them feels natural and honest. The incredible set design details and costumes only enhance the believable nature of their relationship.
Raúl Castillo is brilliant as Gerardo, the wrestler known as El Comandante. The film does an incredible job of showcasing the beauty of being in a loving and intimate same-sex relationship, while also capturing the trauma of societal pressures.
The entire supporting cast does an incredible job. The casting is perfect. Throughout the film, you can feel the awkwardness and sorrow of every mistake the characters make. But equally, you feel the joy and the triumph as they push through tribulation. The film is almost two hours long, and can feel a bit slow at times. But that time is used well. Every quiet moment feels relevant and well placed. It is an inspiring and joyful story but be prepared to shed a lot of tears.