Quinceañera Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

There’s nothing especially wrong with this social-realist look at Latino Los Angeles but somehow it lacks the fire of real art and subsequently fails to make the viewer care about its troubled characters. The film deals with a Mexican-American girl named Magdalena (Emily Rios), whose 15th birthday approaches and with it the coming-out ritual of the "Quinceañera.” Unfortunately, she also finds herself pregnant without apparently having had sex, which upsets her parents so much she’s sent to live with her aged Uncle Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez) and her misfit cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia). Carlos has his own problems — aside from his violent episodes, he’s also secretly gay and courting one of his landlords — but Tomas is non-judgmental and tries to keep the extended family together. This is the kind of thing that used to be called a "slice of life”: a non-aesthetic slab of behaviours designed to look realistic while eschewing the showy technique of less "honest” movies. As such, it lives up to its ambitions, but although it’s not exploitative and sensationalist, it manages to dampen the high emotions to such an extent that we fail to notice what’s happening. After viewing the low-key camerawork and the quiet approach to what would normally be screaming matches you figure if it’s no big deal for them, it’s no big deal for me. The film isn’t bad but I can’t recommend it because it’s like watching no movie at all. Extras include a commentary with the directors and cast that’s a little bit better than most, a decent "making of” doc, a useless clip from the Los Angeles premiere, and a hilarious pretend "Quinceañera” video used in the movie. (Sony)