(director/writer: Michel Franco; cinematographer: Yves Cape; editors: Óscar Figueroa/Michel Franco/Cristina Velasco; cast: Samantha Yazareth Ahaya (Prisoner 21),  Dario Yazbek Bernal (Alan), Patricia Bernal (Pilar), Naian González Norvind (Marianne), Diego Boneta (Daniel), Mónica del Carmen (Marta), Fernando Cuautle (Cristian), Eligio Meléndez (Rolando), Lisa Owen (Rebecca), Enrique Singer (Victor), Roberto Medina (Ivan Novello), Gustavo Sánchez Parra (General Oribe); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Eréndira Núñez Larios/Michel Franco/Cristina Velasco; Neon; 2020-Mexico/France-in Spanish with English subtitles)

A disturbing arthouse dystopian drama about class warfare that’s frankly unwatchable.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A disturbing arthouse dystopian drama about class warfare that’s frankly unwatchable. It’s by Mexican auteur Michel Franco (“After Lucia”/”Chronic”), who supposedly makes the kind of violent art films that the German Michael Haneke makes. It uses shaky hand-held camerawork to capture the revolution unfolding in the streets and bloody graphic images to make its point that trouble is brewing if the “haves” don’t get their act together, as Franco takes a cynical view of both the political uprising of the “have-nots” and the despotic military junta in power for the “haves.'” His only truth is that life stinks as it is.

In the opening scene, the streets of Mexico City are burning with an armed insurrection by the brown population, as the “have-nots” revolt against the white “haves.” In the posh Polanco suburbs the wealthy white Novello family celebrate in their gated mansion the wedding of their 25-year-old daughter Marianne (Naian González Norvind) to the affluent architect Alan (Dario Yazbek Bernal).

The former Novello elderly servant Rolando (Eligio Meléndez) can’t afford his wife’s life-saving heart operation in a private hospital when he can’t get it in a public hospital because of the revolutionary activity there, so he goes to his former employer, the Novello family, to see if he can get financial help for a private hospital. The gentle Marianne would like to help but her insensitive older brother Daniel (Diego Boneta) has turned Rolando away with only a small sum before she can see him.

Enlisting Christian (Fernando Cuautle), the son of loyal family housekeeper Marta (Mónica del Carmen), Marianne‘s driven through the riotous streets lined by police and protesters, as she heads to Rolando’s home intending to accompany his wife to the private clinic and to pay her bills.

The bride’s mother Rebecca (Lisa Owen) busies herself putting the wedding gifts in a bedroom safe. Her real estate developer husband Iván (Roberto Medina) has been part of the corrupt business world, where he prospers by greasing the palms of the influential politicos. The VIP guest is Victor (Enrique Singer), a high-ranking government official with military connections, who makes for a slippery guest.

The riot reaches the suburbs, as the looters throw green paint at their enemies. and invade the novello mansion and rob the bedroom safe and rich guests. The next morning the dead bodies are found and the spray-painted words “Putos Ricos” are written in the front of the Novello house.

Marianne has been taken by the coup soldiers to a holding facility, and is being held for ransom. There are grim scenes of rape and looting afoot, as the coup victors lock down the city.

We witness the collapse of a corrupt system with a more ruthless replacement, and things continue like the rock song says ‘the more we change, the more we don’t.’ The disturbing film
calls for a more equitable distribution of wealth and power before it’s too late to have a reasonable government.

It’s a
traumatizing film, but not a particularly well-thought out film or one that’s discerning. It’s a shock film–a cult film without context to sustain its points with much credibility.


REVIEWED ON 1/22/2021  GRADE: C+