A substitute teacher in Buenos Aires must step out of his professional duties when one of his students is threatened by a local drug kingpin, in this remarkable reflection on the social tensions many students and teachers deal with every day in different corners of the Americas.
Recently appointed as a substitute literature teacher at a high school in an underserved area of Buenos Aires, Lucio (Juan Minujín) has to hit the ground running if he wants to find a way to connect with the minds — and the realities — of a cohort of students with far tougher things than homework to worry about.
Lucio also has big shoes to fill: those of his ailing father, known as “El Chileno” (Alfredo Castro), a well-loved community organizer who is about to open a soup kitchen, years in the making, but is constantly being threatened by a local gang as they seek total control of the area through drugs and corrupt politics. When one of his students lands in trouble with the local kingpin, Lucio has to step out from his teaching duties to protect both the teenager and the fragile bond he’s forging with his pupils.
Beyond the thorny ethical questions raised by director Diego Lerman, El Suplente’s taut narrative adroitly reflects the social tensions many students and teachers deal with every day in different corners of the Americas. Minujín is outstanding as Lucio, a simultaneously solid and vulnerable young man who somehow manages to prove, amid this chaotic and unpredictable environment, that literature is consolation and a refuge for the troubled human soul.