Emily Rios in Quinceañera.


Stars Emily Rios, Jesse Garcia

Directors Richard Glatzer,

Wash Westmoreland

**1/2 (out of five)

Set in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles, Quinceañera gets its title from the 15th birthday celebration given for Mexican-American girls, a cross between first communion, a bat mitzvah, prom night and a wedding, complete with gown, ushers and “bridesmaids” in matching dresses. It’s the sort of ritual that outsiders find alternately quaint and kitschy, but why should outsiders’ opinions matter?

In the case of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s film, it’s hard to ignore what outsiders to L.A.’s Mexican-American community think.

Echo Park is in the middle of a gentrification that the directors, a couple in real life, are part of, and they’ve taken their Latino neighbours as the inspiration for this story about a young girl who discovers she’s pregnant a few months before her Quinceañera, and is forced to move in with her greatgreat uncle and cousin.

Magdalena (Emily Rios) and her cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia), a tough, tattooed Cholo who happens to be gay, are outcasts from their families, and overcome their dislike for each other as their situations get worse.

It sounds like a moving, emotionally rich story, and would be except that it’s told in a flat style evocative of documentaries.

It’s also hard to escape the sense that the film is about how much better things would be if the directors’ Latino neighbours were more like them, which is to say neutral in their values and liberal in their morals.