“La Bachata de Bionico” Is a Compelling, Dark Comedy About Addiction

La Bachata de Bionico | Credit: Manuel Raposo as Bionico

La Bachata de Bionico (Bionico’s Bachata) played at the SXSW Film Festival for the narrative competition. Filmed in a mockumentary style and using chapters to distinguish its arcs, the movie follows a drug addict, Bionico, as he decides to quit crack because the love of his life, La Flaca (Ana Minier), is getting out of rehab in a week. Directed by Yoel Morales and written by Cristian Mojica and Morales, the movie stars Manuel Raposo as Bionico. As we see in the film’s episodic storytelling, Bionico’s day-to-day largely consists of drugs. But he, according to his friend Calvita (El Napo), never misses his three o’clock phone call with his fiance La Flaca. Such as their commitment and the obstacles in their way.

With a comical score that captures the hilarious essence of Bionico’s claims of romance and his assertions to quit drugs, La Bachata de Bionico is funny, feeling real yet heightened.

The music fits the mockumentary style and it also captures the exaggerated, almost dreamlike, fairytale elements of Bionico’s mind. It’s a land of delusion that viewers understand immediately – claims built on a stick foundation. Bionico claims he is a romantic waiting for his love, yet approaches another woman to get a blowjob. While the rest is unknown, he did likely cheat. When he decides to quit using, Bionico possesses that “it’s easy” mentality until his friends strap him to the bed and he pleads for them to untie him.

Along the way, the music moves between dance beats and kid-like wonder, sounds one might hear winding up a music box for a child. It feels like an extension of Bionico’s mood, committed to sound rather than unfolding events.

There’s also a heightened sense of urgency to the film, captured by the frantic comings and goings of Bionico and his friends. When their friend, whom they call ‘The Engineer’ (Donis Taveras), dies, all anyone can think about is how he smoked up all the drugs. Bionico is the one who points out that regardless of whether they were close, he deserves a proper burial. It’s unclear if this is Bionico sympathizing or if this is another aspect of the drug-addled fantasy where he is the caring romantic. So they place his body outside, say a few words, and await an older man with a wooden slat on wheels, akin to the metal dollies UPS drivers use. The man with the cart is a fascinating yet chilling depiction of death. When your time comes, so does he.

Yet after this old man, with long black fingers and fingertips like claws, leaves with their friend, every one of them, including Bionico, returns to using. It’s a tragic moment, and the film’s score captures the darkened tones of it as they return to their friend’s killer. It’s an eerie sight as the film uses close-ups of each person lighting up before pulling back to show that the only illumination in the room is from their flickering lighters or the candles others use to heat their drug of choice. And through all of this, Bionico’s deadline to get clean and set things up for La Flaca looms ever closer.

As the directors behind, and occasionally in front of the camera, interview worshippers of The Eagle, La Bachata de Bionico shows another element to addiction: religious justification. Many people use religion as the why for what they do or do not do. People addicted to drugs are not any different. Their mindset is that the Eagle protects them so it’s ok for them to steal to get the money for their next high. For Bionico, it’s not God or The Eagle protecting him, it’s his love for La Flaca – a woman viewers only see in TikTok videos. The fantasy of her rears up amidst danger and tragedy. Bionico escapes time and again to a world where he is someone who does anything for the woman he loves. It’s horrifying and heartbreaking at the same time.

Deepening the film’s emotional effect, each of the lead cast gives fantastic performances. In particular, Manuel Raposo stands out alongside El Napo. Their addiction and the ludicrous choices it drives them to are comical but they’re also believable thanks to the actors portraying them.

It’s like Bionico’s in a romantic comedy and audiences are along for the ride despite moments meant to wake Bionico and viewers up. The movie’s tone makes a drastic, disconcerting shift at the climax, leaving everyone in shock alongside Bionico.

La Bachata de Bionico is a dark comedy and tragedy– a mockumentary of addiction that employs laughs to reel in viewers to the actual heartrending circumstances of drug’s destructive nature.

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