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“Radical” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

radical movie review 2023

“Radical,” a Spanish-language movie from Mexico, is based on the true story of an innovative and inspiring teacher in a poor community. Chucho (Daniel Haddad) runs an elementary school in a very poor community with corrupt officials and constant violence from gangs of drug dealers. Sergio (Eugenio Derbez) is the new teacher, brought on at the last minute when a faculty member quit just a day before school started. One of the other teachers scoffs that the only requirement for the faculty is a pulse. 

Chucho has all but given up on giving the children a meaningful education because the students walk past yellow crime scene tape and murdered bodies on the way to school, the library’s encyclopedia is 30 years old, and the computer lab has been out of service for four years. Most students drop out after sixth grade to help their families or to join gangs. The bored students suffer through lectures, memorization, and busy work.

The school is often derisively referred to as “a place of punishment.” As the students line up in their uniforms for the first day of school, Chucho barks at them, “Silence is the foundation of obedience; obedience is the foundation of discipline, and discipline is the foundation of learning.” He has no interest in challenging established procedures or authorities. If the funding for the computer lab somehow disappeared and the teachers get early copies of the standardized tests so they can be sure to get bonuses when the students memorize the answers, all he can say to Sergio is, “No one gives a damn what happens here … don’t kick the hornets’ nest.” 

Sergio Juárez Correa’s work at the José Urbina López Primary School in Matamoros, Mexico, was the subject of a 2013 Wired Magazine article titled, A Radical Way of Unleashing a Generation of Geniuses. One of the students was on the cover with the headline, “The Next Steve Jobs?” Correa was inspired by the ideas of Sugata Mitra, a British professor of educational technology, who proposed student-led learning, an updated, computer-enabled version of the ideas popularized in the 1960s by Summerhill founder A.S. Neill. “What do you want to learn?” Sergio (as he insists the students refer to him) asks. He encourages them not to worry about grades and not to be afraid of mistakes. “Who wants to be wrong first?”

When they first come to his classroom, the students pause at the door because he has turned the desks upside down and piled them in groups. He calls out to them that they are underwater, the desks are boats, and the students will drown if they cannot climb on board. But if there are too many people in a boat, it will sink. How can they determine the right number in each boat to save the most people? This makes the students want to learn about flotation, which means math and physics. It leads one student to ponder how we decide who to save when there is not enough room. Sergio tells her she is a philosopher, like John Stuart Mill. Another student, Paloma (Jennifer Trejo), becomes interested in math and astronomy. Sergio tells her she could be an aerospace engineer. Soon, Sergio has the students out on the playground, each a planet orbiting and spinning.

Derbez, always a charismatic screen presence, is at his best interacting with young people, as he did playing the music teacher in “Coda” and the quirky doctor in “Miracles from Heaven.” The young actors are exceptionally expressive, particularly Jennifer Trejo as Paloma, the WIRED cover model, a gifted young mathematician who lives with her father next to the garbage dump they glean to support themselves; Mia Fernanda Solis as Lupe, who goes to the college library to check out philosophy books but is forced to drop out of school to care for her baby brother; and Danilo Guardiola as Nico, whose brother has involved him in drug smuggling but who has begun to wish for a life of learning—and a closer relationship with Paloma. 

Sergio wants to challenge the school’s systems, but most of all, he wants to challenge his sixth graders. He knows that what matters more than memorizing facts is to make them want to learn, to teach them how to learn, and to show them how capable and curious they can be. He does that for Chucho as well.

One of the movie’s most meaningful moments is when the two men sit down for a quiet talk. As Sergio and Chucho share the names of the teachers who inspired them, we see Chucho begin to reconnect with what led him to become an educator. If we are lucky, we have at least one teacher in our past who showed us what we are capable of. If not, Sergio can help remind us that it is never too late. 

Now playing in theaters. 

Radical movie poster

Radical (2023)

Rated PG-13
for some strong violent content, thematic material and strong language.

127 minutes

Cast

Eugenio Derbezas Sergio

Daniel Haddadas Chucho

Jennifer Trejoas Paloma

Mia Fernanda Solisas Lupe

Danilo Guardiola Escobaras Nico

Gilberto Barrazaas Papa Paloma

Víctor Estradaas Chepe

Manuel Márquezas Enrique

Christian Gonzalezas Jaime

Xochiquetzal Martínezas Maria

Director

  • Christopher Zalla

Writer (based on article by)

  • Joshua Davis

Writer

  • Christopher Zalla

Cinematographer

  • Mateo Londono

Editor

  • Eugenio Richer

Composer

  • Pascual Reyes
  • Juan Pablo Villa

“Radical” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

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