“Chop Shop” (2007)

I initially heard about Chop Shop in an article by A.O. Scott, a film reviewer for the New York Times, on the new style of real-life movies, which he termed neo-neo realism:

Chop Shop….seems at once utterly naturalistic and meticulously composed. The main characters are Ale (short for Alejandro), an energetic 12-year-old, and his older sister, Izzy (short for Isamar), who comes to stay with him in his makeshift quarters above the car-repair shop where he does odd jobs. There is no back story – no flashbacks or conversations about how they arrived at this state of virtual orphanhood in the shadow of Shea Stadium – and, at first, only the whisper of a plot.

I more recently read Roger Ebert’s list of the best films of the decade, which includes Chop Shop, and the best films of 2009, which includes Goodbye, Solo, also directed by Ramin Bahrani. Ebert notes that all three of his films, which also include Man Push Cart, are well worth viewing. Since I find Ebert and Scott mostly reliable, I thought it was time to seek one out, and I started with the earliest, 2007’s Chop Shop.

Chop Shop is a beautifully shot, meditative (i.e. not fast-paced) film. Ale and his sister are sweet and heartbreaking. Yet the film isn’t dragged down by irony or bitterness. Instead it’s buoyed, not exactly by hope, but by a kind of philosophical shrug that life goes on, and there are pretty good things in it even among the junk. Recommended, if you’re in the mood for a small, well-crafted indie film.

Comments are closed.