Mucho Mucho Amor review: A ruminative and uplifting look at the life Walter Mercado

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 1: Walter Mercado is seen at the opening of "Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado" at HistoryMiami Museum on August 1, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 1: Walter Mercado is seen at the opening of "Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado" at HistoryMiami Museum on August 1, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images) /

Netflix’s Mucho Mucho Amor balances a sense of playful mysticism and wonder with quiet moments of empathy in a ruminative documentary chronicling the life and legacy of Walter Mercado.

To many American audiences, the name Walter Mercado is an unfamiliar one, but for hundreds of millions of Latin Americans, Walter Mercado was synonymous with hope, love, and astrology for over 50 years. Chronicling his rise, fall, and legacy, Mucho Mucho Amor is a deeply personal look at the life of legendary Puerto Rican television personality and astrology Walter Mercado, whose bold fashion choices, unwavering optimism, and unique abilities captivated audiences for the better part of a century.

Netflix’s Mucho Mucho Amor takes a relatively standard approach to structure: beginning at the beginning of Mercado’s career in show business (which began with singing, dancing, and stage acting at a young age) and continuing in chronological order throughout his career with interjecting interviews with fixtures in his life over the years. However, despite the conventional style, the documentary more than held our interest over its entire runtime — and with a subject as larger than life as Mercado, how could it not?

From the opening moments, Mucho Mucho Amor poses a question that millions have been asking for years, and one that it promises to finally answer: What happened to Walter Mercado? After all, the man was once a daily fixture in the lives of an entire continent, only to seemingly disappear from all public life without warning. In reality, we find out, Mercado’s disappearance wasn’t of his own volition.

After enjoying 20 years of successful television and radio appearances, Mercado inadvertently signed a contract completely handing over the use of his name, image, and likeness to his manager, and in doing so effectively ended his ability to appear onscreen without violating his contract.

It seems like a rookie mistake that someone of Mercado’s age and popularity should’ve avoided, but if there’s one thing that Mucho Mucho Amor makes clear, it’s that Walter Mercado was no ordinary soul. By all accounts (both of his own admittance and those closest to him), Mercado had always been an odd duck — an outlier from the rest of his contemporaries in almost every aspect of his life.

From his fanciful designer capes and androgynous features to his blending of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity (along with other Pagan religions) to craft horoscopes, Mercado never fit into one single box, and his status as an outsider meant the man held a temperament of unfailing trust, loyalty, and optimism. So much so that he could be taken advantage of by someone he once called his “angel.”

Even after admitting that his manager, Bill Bakula, essentially crippled his career and brought about financial ruin, Mercado still can’t be made to speak negatively of the man. Instead, he refers to Bakula as a “godsend” — the man who launched his career, and for that Mercado seemed eternally thankful.

Mucho Mucho Amor is full of disarmingly charming idiosyncrasies like this because that was just how Mercado lived his life. The documentary plays out in chapters titled with tarot cards (a fixture in his television program) that animate and dramatize the most important moments in Mercado’s life.

While not particularly ambitious in scope (or in Mercado’s story itself; his is one of fame and then the fade-out of stardom), Mucho Mucho Amor bottles the Latin American love affair with Walter Mercado. While he may not have the riches or awards to show for it, Mercado is an undeniable influence on several generations, and for him, being such an aspirational figure is worth much more than material wealth.

Mucho Mucho Amor may not be a groundbreaking cinematic work, but its effortless combination of whimsical mysticism, quiet reverence, and just the right dash of over-the-top eccentrics makes it the perfect tribute to Walter Mercado, a man whose legacy will undoubtedly extend far beyond his years on earth.

Next. Babyteeth review: Eliza Scanlen delivers a raw performance. dark

Have you seen Mucho Mucho Amor? What’s your favorite Netflix documentary? Sound off in the comments below?