Close this search box.

Simon of the Mountain Review: A Tricksy Charmer

Two boys walk down a corridor one behind the other wearing no clothes, one looking back toward the camera, in the film Simon of the Mountain

A great cast of mostly first-timers and sensitive writing mark Simon of the Mountain as an ambitious and smart feature debut.

Director: Luis Federico
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 96′
Cannes Premiere: May 15, 2024
Where to watch:

Despite its focus on first and second features, the entries in La Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Film Festival often appear unassuming, telling low-key stories but revealing challenging material under the surface. It’s a golden opportunity for a director to make themselves known.

On the surface, Simon of the Mountain (Simón de la Montaña) looks like a predictable drama about an endearing but disadvantaged group, but for his debut feature, Argentine filmmaker Federico Luis commits to making their tale as relatable as possible. A ragtag bunch of disabled youths are given remarkable complexity his hands. They’re given a dash of dignity, but crucially, not too much. We’re all as fallible as each other, no matter how able-bodied we are.

Whenever the disabled get a showcase onscreen, there’s an easy temptation to lionise them. It’s refreshing then to find that the teenagers who inhabit Simon of the Mountain are portrayed as teenagers first, and any disabilities are considered thereafter. Simon (Lorenzo Ferro) is the newest member of a disabled youth group, inserting himself into their midst with ease. We meet the gang as they take a hike up an unsubtle metaphor, a mountain with a strong wind blowing against them. They make it in spite of their circumstances, but the ‘triumph over adversity’ angle is passé. Luckily, Luis knows this, and is much more interested in the group’s day-to-day activities.

When Simon fails to keep a lookout for his friend Pehuén (Pehuén Pedre) having some fun with a girl on a group swimming trip, the resulting disciplinary actions reveal the truth: Simon isn’t classed as disabled. Before that, though, the idea that Pehuén would be sexually active is probably a bigger surprise to some audiences. The teenagers in Simon of the Mountain, like any teenagers, are open to rebellion, experimentation and living life fully, even when obstacles might stand in the way. When Simon co-opts one of his new friends’ hearing aid, we get to hear the world as it sounds through such a device, with the crackle of static breaking up dialogue. As a former teaching assistant to disabled teenagers, Luis inventively draws on his experience to bring this group’s world to life.

Teenagers stand on the beach in the wind and shout in the film Simon of the Mountain
Simon of the Mountain (Arizona Distribution / Cannes Film Festival)

The film depends on a sturdy lead to prevent Simon from becoming unlikeable, as his behaviour constantly causes the audience to question whether or not he is disabled. Ferro is no stranger to Cannes (His feature debut, The Angel, played in Un Certain Regard in 2018), and he’s a mesmerising watch as Simon. His introverted nature segues to frustrated outbursts with alarming ease as he walks the line between a life he cannot stand and friends he cannot risk losing. He’s ably supported by Laura Nevole as Simon’s henpecking mother, suggesting his fragile sense of self is a result of nurture rather than nature.

Most impressive are the first-time actors cast as Simon’s new friends. Pedre and Kiara Supini (as sweet-but-sassy potential love interest Colo) bring a mix of warmth and darkness to their parts, insisting their characters are not to be insulated from the real world by their disabilities. Luis respects them enough to put them at the centre of the action in Simon of the Mountain, investing them with heart while deepening Simon’s moral conundrum.

Some people might be put off by a lead character who would fake a disability, but Luis contextualises Simon’s behaviour without rationalising it, and never makes the people he’s exploiting the butt of any joke. Simon of the Mountain is mature enough in its writing to work as mystery and moral tale, without getting didactic, and the cast are as invested in their roles as Luis is in them. Never underestimate the complexity lying just under the surface.

Simon of the Mountain premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2024, as part of the Semaine de la Critique. Read our list of 20 films to watch at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival!

2024 Cannes Film Festival: 20 Films to Watch – Loud And Clear
Loud and Clear’s list of 20 films to watch at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, from anticipated movies to promising premieres and indie gems!
Thank you for reading us! If you’d like to help us continue to bring you our coverage of films and TV and keep the site completely free for everyone, please consider a donation.