January 18, 2021 – An upper class Mexican wedding is invaded by armed insurgents in this dystopian drama about a society crumbling under the strain of vast inequities of wealth.
Probably a lot of the plot of this Spanish language film was lost in translation, but there is a lot of death, torture, injustice and suffering in this scary movie where most of the characters find themselves in chaotic situations where they have no control over what happens to them.
It just so happens I watched this movie 11 days after the awful events of January 6, 2021, when insurgents overran the American capital, raising fears that neo-Nazi white supremacist insurgents, similar to the Confederate insurgents of the late 1860s and 1870s, like Jesse James, may stage similar attacks around the country.
Because of the January 6 attack, the attacks in this film hit close to home. The film opens with a wedding at the home of a wealthy family. The matriarch of the family Rebeca (Lisa Owen) is visited by a former servant, Rolando (Eligio Meléndez) asks her for money to pay for his wife's heart valve operation. She gives him some money, but not enough. Rolando then asks Rebecca's daughter, Marianne (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) who is the wedding bride.
Marianne tries to persuade friends and family to contribute, but they refuse. Finally, Marianne agrees to help, grabs her credit card and heads out to Rolando's house in a car. She is accompanied by a young house servant, Cristian (Fernando Cuautle). She goes, despite the signs of violence nearby. There is are riots in the streets and soldiers are everywhere, blocking roads, yet Marianne insists on going forward with her good intentions and her sense of privilege and entitlement, born of her place in high society.
Soon after Marianne leaves on her dangerous mission of mercy, the wedding is invaded by rioters, who murder, rob and intimidate family and guests indiscriminately. The rioters appear to be people from the lower classes of society who are eager to steal from the rich house owners and guests.
Class warfare is on full display as wedding guests are stripped of clothing, jewelry and other valuables by their own servants, among others. The violence is scary and chaotic. At the home of Rolando, Marianne and Cristian also find themselves isolated and unable to get away because of the riots. Cristian's mother calls him and tells him not to go back to the house where the wedding was to have been held, because it is under siege.
Eventually, the army moves in to quell the riot, but at least some of the members of the army (perhaps the whole army) are corrupt. Soldiers take Marianne to a prison and hold her for ransom, along with many other prisoners. Marianne is raped and some prisoners are tortured.
I couldn't really tell who was on whose side in this conflict, and the characters in the film do not seem to know who to trust either. Suspicions result in deadly consequences for some characters. In the end, it appears that the military, as well as the upper classes, take advantage of the riots to grab even more power. Innocent people are executed for crimes committed by the very same people who are executing them.
It seems to me this is a very cynical film. The director, Michel Franco is Mexican, but the film's worldview and sensibilities seem more European, perhaps because this is a Mexican and French production.
This movie is very slickly made with good production values. The cinematography, by Yves Cape (“Holy Motors”) runs the gamut from a lush colored palate in the party scenes, to a muted one in the prison scenes. The acting is also good, although the characters seem a bit shallow and two-dimensional. This film made me very uneasy about how uncertain life can be when society falls apart, just as it seems to be falling apart right now. This film rates a B.
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