A pinata sits on a shelf in a store with his “brothers and sisters,” longing to experience life on the outside world and wondering just what his purpose is.
One magical day, he is chosen by a “king,” a thrilling moment that also marks his transition to the world beyond the store. Deciding that his purpose is to make his king happy, the pinata enjoys the sights and sounds of life and especially the affection of his king — only to discover that life is not what it initially seems.
This marvel of a dark existential comedy — directed by David Bornstein and written by Ari Grabb — masterfully balances a range of tones, mixing the existential questing of an inanimate object with an audience’s sophisticated knowing of its true fate, adding to both the ironic comedy and the eventual heartbreak.
The elegantly expressive cinematography and camerawork add lyricism to the images and communicates both the POV of how the pinata sees the world, as well as its place in it. The over-the-top dramatic score offsets everything with a knowing wink of melodrama that nevertheless remains proportional to the rest of the film.
Excellent writing manages the trick of explores the gap between the pinata’s knowledge of the world with the audience’s knowledge of his fate. Sometimes this gap is mined for whimsy and humor, especially since the pinata’s “voice” is so serious and philosophical in nature, making for brilliant and hilarious juxtapositions.
Actor Adrian Gomez gives a richly expressive voice performance as the pinata, injecting a sense of gravitas and wonderment into the pinata’s thoughts. Yet it is never played for cheap, silly laughs: the pinata’s marvel at the world, his love for his “king,” and his hostility towards the king’s “servant” is always sincere.
As he faces his fate, the voice, writing and filmmaking in “A King’s Betrayal” all intertwine to generate a horrifying, poignant sense of despair at what awaits the pinata, and the devastating conclusions he draws about life’s inherent difficulties, unfairness and the sheer suffering of it all. “Life is just cruel” may be the final lesson of the film, played for both jokes and reality — and making for a surprisingly heartbreaking, emotionally rich storytelling experience.