"...stitches together fragments of personal memory and fantasy, garnished with a smattering of visual effects and the odd hint of social commentary, to build a poetic psychedelic rhapsody."
Tony Rayns, Sight & Sound
Carlos Reygadas’ (Battle in Heaven, Silent Light) latest won Best Director in Cannes this year. It’s a gorgeous allusive masterpiece examining marriage, poverty, class, gender, our place in nature and how evil lives with us in the most intimate and ordinary of places. It’s a wonder.
Although largely non-linear in its structure, preferring instead to show a series of striking images from the past, present and possible futures, there is a clear centre to the film. Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) is a wealthy industrialist who has chosen to live with his wife and two children away from the trappings of wealth and the city. Yet isolation in this superficially idyllic rural landscape seems to have brought little peace to his world. Juan’s marriage to Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) is suffering under the strain of sexual ennui, the banal rigors of bringing up young children and living in a community where he is clearly an outsider.
There is a density to this film which truly repays repeat viewings allowing its myriad ideas to slowly rise to the fore and coalesce into perhaps Reygadas’ most personal and complex work to-date. Its central theme, signposted quite literally in an audacious manner very early on, is Juan’s struggle to morally navigate the welter of everyday decisions we are all forced to make in life. The morality of family life is further complicated by Juan’s post-colonial Mexican ethnicity and position as an employer and elite landowner in a country with an increasingly divergent wealth divide.
But what lingers long after this dense mood piece is not only the more striking images much discussed since its unveiling in May, but also the subtler aspects of family life, the tender fragility of childhood and marriage, and some of the most beautiful haunting representations of nature ever committed to film.