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Film Review: Mucho Mucho Amor - The Legend of Walter Mercado

11 July 20 words: Hollie Anderson

The stars align in Netflix's latest documentary feature...

Directors: Cristina Constantini and Kareem Tabsch
Running time: 96 minutes

Another new Netflix original has arrived on our lockdown screens – this time following the life and times of world-famous Puerto Rican astrologist Walter Mercado. This dazzling character suddenly disappeared from screens over a decade ago, only to re-emerge on the social media feed of Lin-Manuel Miranda ahead of a huge museum exhibition celebrating his life and work. 

I had not heard of Walter but as the documentary unfolds, I can’t believe he passed me by. The film maps out his baffling route to stardom - starting from humble origins in the impoverished countryside, followed by a brief stint as the local psychic, a stage and radio play actor with bit-pieces on TV novellas before Walter was suddenly, but understandably, snapped up by a producer to be an on-screen astrologist. 

What follows is his rocketing to stardom as his show spread across the globe – aided by his loyal assistant Willie Acosta, his new manager Bill Bakula, and his many adoring nieces. Soon he was aired on over 100 radio shows, and had a dial-in psychic line that earned millions. 

Walter’s image is central to his story. He styled himself carefully, adorning himself in fabulous cloaks and jewels – similarly to Liberace – and greeting his fans and followers in a way not unlike the Pope. This striking persona, which was neither male nor female, gay nor straight confused critics of the time and stood strong in the face of an incredibly homophobic society. Though never owning to his sexuality, if he were around now, he’d undoubtedly become an icon. 

A truly kooky yet wholesome watch

What also becomes apparent is Walter’s unending positivity. Walter gives no negative premonitions and believes that love is everything. A gimmick? My gut said so, but seeing how he lived his life suggests an almost innocent belief in the image he had crafted for himself. It’s all grounded in ego, absolutely, but somehow there is still a pure message at its core. 

As his stardom rises ever higher, Walter makes a huge mistake and the problem of celebrity comes into play. A six-year court case takes over his life as he fights his ‘angel’ manager Bill Bakula to regain rights to his work, image and name. 

After this point his disappearance is triggered, and that’s where we initially pick up with Walter, just as his fortunes are about to change. 

This documentary is wonderfully quotable and suddenly you can’t help but see him everywhere – especially on social media where his fame now rests in an array of memes. As someone who rolls their eyes at celebrity and kept expecting a dark turn throughout Walter’s story, it was wonderful to see the messages of love and peace permeating throughout, with Walter regaining his seat in the public eye. A truly kooky yet wholesome watch. 

Farewell, enjoy watching and mucho, mucho amor

Did you know? Directors Cristina Constantini and Kareem Tabsch showed Walter Mercado the first 15 minutes of the film weeks before he passed away. He told them: “I didn’t like it — I’m obsessed with it.”

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado is now available on Netflix

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