Paraguay’s 7 Boxes delivers a powerhouse of a package

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      Starring Celso Franco and Lali González. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable.

      This simply shot thriller from Paraguay—a country not known for its cinematic output—is a film-school-ready example of what you can do with a minimal budget, a great location, some energy, and several good ideas.

      On another level, it’s a metaphor for Latin-American corruption, technological obsession, and the general alienation of the poor worldwide. But don’t let that get in the way of your pleasure.

      Increasingly frantic events centre on young Víctor (Celso Franco), a casual day worker at a huge public market in Asunción, Paraguay’s rarely depicted capital. The tale is set about 10 years ago, so smartphones are still fairly new, and Victor is obsessed with the idea of getting one.

      Sweet-eyed but not very deep, the lad is so busy looking at media he loses a delivery job to the devilishly bearded Nelson (Víctor Sosa). Because of this slight change in routine, Nelson, who needs to buy expensive medicine for an ailing infant, in turn loses a pushcart gig to Victor, tasked by a local butcher with delivering the titular cartons, contents unknown, to an uncertain destination.

      Along the way, our guy keeps running into tomboyish pal Liz (Lali González), who wants to know what’s in the boxes, and his sister, Tamara (Nelly Davalos), who is trying to sell a phone for a pal going into labour. The sister and her friend work for a Korean family, whose son (Jin Hyuk Johnny Kim) has a hankering for Tamara. Along with various cops, hustlers, and spectacularly inept crooks, these are some of the people who get pulled into an all-night chase that erupts after Victor finds out what he is carrying.

      The results, courtesy of experienced writer-directors Juan Carlos Meneglia and Tana Schembori, are like Slumdog Millionaire as refashioned by Robert Rodriguez, with a plot that’s twisty, unexpectedly violent, and oddly funny throughout.

      Take the rare chance to catch this brainy, breathless gem; it won’t be playing on the box anytime soon.