25 March 2018 | Raven-1969
Confronting Fears in the Face of Loss
Fireflies in the twilight and tropical forest, immersion in rain fall, excited shouts from kids playing in crumbled remains of ancient stone buildings and the traces of wind and memories. Such wonders keep Carmen and her children, Daniel and Ana, alive in the wake of the death of their father and husband. Each has a different way of dealing with the grief. Carmen is a mess. When not asleep, she is drifting into an alcohol infused stupor. In depression and denial, she leaves Ana and Daniel to take care of themselves. Daniel relies on fantasy to escape from reality, acting out his feelings with frequent visits from a seemingly benevolent monster. Ana pouts and sulks, masking a deeply wounded psyche. The dead, according to ancient belief, can return to afflict the living with fears and hurts they failed to confront together before. Carmen, Daniel and Ana must therefore look to each other to heal the wounds they all carry, or suffer further harm.
This beautiful, atmospheric and thoughtful film unwinds in unexpected directions. It accords with beliefs about the natural world, and our connection to it, that I hold deeply. The family is from Argentina and the setting is Mexico of the 1950s-70s. The writer/director, attending the same Miami Film Festival showing I was at, declared that she is deliberately nebulous about the time-period wherein the film takes place. She feels a larger audience will connect with the characters this way (she is right). There are many little nuggets of wisdom and charm scattered throughout the film including kids comforting each other. "Don't worry," said one "grownups lie a lot." The kids were a "beautiful nightmare" said the director, who did a fantastic job of giving the kids space to be free and creative and yet enough structure to keep them from straying too far from the arc of the story. Dolores Fonzi (Carmen), also present in Miami, said her role was complicated and yet, being a mother herself, simpler because it was closer to her nature. Some of the scenes are a little rough around the edges, but hardly noticeable and the film overall beautifully reveals how we "go a little crazy" when we lose someone close to us.