January 4, 2023 – Much of this movie, co-writedn and directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“The Revenant”) is like dreams, and the reason for that is not revealed until the end. These dreams serve as reflections on a man's life, and these reflections are highly self-critical and filled with doubt.
The dreamer is Silverio (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) a Mexican filmmaker living in the United States, whose specialty is “docufiction,” a combination of documentary with fictional elements to highlight certain elements. Silverio's dreams include scenes from his docufiction films, but they may not be real films since it is hard to be sure there is any actual reality in this movie, like the scene in which it is announced that Amazon bought the entire Baja peninsula.
The movie opens with a dream sequence in which Silverio seems to be flying through the air. In another scene he seems to be swimming in a rail car, trying to capture fish he bought for his son. The first part of the movie takes place in Mexico, later on, Silverio and his family return to the United States, where is to accept an award for his filmmaking.
Returning from Mexico to the United States, he asked by an official at the airport, “What is the purpose of your trip?” Silverio replies, “We live here.” To this the official replies “No, you don't live here.” Silverio, angered, says, “Oh, yes. We do live here. I'm a journalist, and this is my home.” The official says, “This is not your home, sir.”
This conversation is clearly a dream, but like Silverio's docufiction, it highlights Silverio's plight as a man caught between two worlds, the United States and Mexico. He wants his children to be safe in America, even though their heritage lies in Mexico. When Silverio returns to Mexico, where many of his relatives live, he no longer feels at home. “My nationality is no nationality,” he says.
At a big party in Mexico honoring him, Silverio sneaks away to avoid having to give a speech. Silverio is wary of the accolades he gets from others. He is not sure he is as accomplished as he is supposed to be. He sneaks away to a bathroom, where he sees his dead father, with whom he has a conversation. His father is full sized, but Silverio shrinks down to the size of a child.
Silverio says, “Success has been my biggest failure.” Silverio fears that he has not been a good father to his children. Silverio's father reminds him what he always said, “Take a swig of success. Swish it around, and spit it out. Otherwise, it'll poison you.”
In another dream, also said to be one of Silverio's docufictional movies, Silverio has a conversation with another dead person, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortes. Silverio walks down deserted streets in Mexico City and then finds more and more people. He sees one woman fall down, as if dead, but she is alive and tells him she is one of those who disappeared. More and more people fall to the ground in a similar manner. Silverio continues walking among the dead, or disappeared, until he hears someone shouting from the top of a huge mound of dead people, it is Cortes.
Cortez says to Silverio, “My children were the first Mexicans, so I am your father, like it or not. I lived a Mexican, and I died more Mexican than anyone.” Silverio replies, “I'm sorry to say, people hate you as much in Mexico as they do in Spain. There's not a single statue of you.” Cortez is not impressed, he says, “Look at yourself, you're more Creole and Mestizo than my own children. You don't want to be Indians or Spaniards.”
Silverio's uneasy relationship with his own fame is also highlighted by his ongoing arguments with TV presenter Luis Valdivia (played by Francisco Rubio) who attacks him relentlessly on a TV talk show, while Silverio refuses to talk at all. Luis says, “Some of our colleagues say American liberals are using you, and this award is to compensate for the far right's attacks on our country ... Let's suppose they're giving you this award to please a community full of Mexicans in Los Angeles.”
Later, at a party, Silverio does talk to Luis after hearing more criticism from him, he tells Luis, “You're a fake. Scrounging for likes on your socials... Rubbing elbows with the president, pushing faddish ideologies and idiocies. You're the perfect image of today's journalist, Luis. An entertainer, an opinion peddler. It's people like you who've left us without truth.” He tells Luis to shut up, and Luis is no longer able to speak.
Silverio's dead, infant son Mateo also has a major role in the film. Mateo died 30 hours after being born, but in Silverio's dream, Mateo refused to live in the world, and a doctor reinserts Mateo back inside his mother, only to partially reappear in another of Silverio's dreams. Silverio tells his dead father, “I still can't let Mateo go.” Silverio's father says he will learn to let Mateo go. In a later scene, Silverio and his wife, Lucía (played by Griselda Siciliani) symbolically release Mateo into the ocean.
Silverio's father sums everything up by saying, “Life is just a brief series of senseless events. You must surrender to it. Clench your fists. Hold your head high.” Some say this movie is a series of senseless scenes, but I think there is a lot of truth in it, and a lot of those scenes are very impressive and imaginative. This is a well-acted, thought-provoking movie about the nature of human existence. It rates a B+.
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