mon 04/03/2024

Lost in the Night review - hunting a mother's killer | reviews, news & interviews

Lost in the Night review - hunting a mother's killer

Lost in the Night review - hunting a mother's killer

Avengers and not many angels in this grim Mexican mystery

Red desert: Juan Daniel Garcia Trevino and Ester Exposito in ‘Lost in the Night’
“Everything is legal if you have the money,” states the world-weary protagonist of this new film by the Mexican-American director Amat Escalante.
And in the wilds of central Mexico, where the movie is set, the comment is unlikely to be questioned. Lost in the Night features characters lost at pretty much any time of the day in a slick, grim, ramifying desert mystery that never quite hits the escape velocity of thriller.
 
At the start, the mother of young labourer Emiliano (Juan Daniel García Treviño) is disappeared by the cops for campaigning against a local mine, and the main story follows his hunt to track those who paid for her likely killing. It leads him via a hideously burnt cop to a big ugly modern mansion filled with suspicious, screwy rich folk – a famous actress/singer (Bábara Mori), her social-media-star daughter (Ester Expósito) and artist husband (Fernando Bonilla). The wife has a blood-soaked past, the daughter has a monumental death wish, and the husband, a hulking pseud with a Mohican, makes art from dead bodies. They have a dog called Buñuel.
 
Emiliano cadges odd jobs off them and insinuates himself into their home in the time-honoured trope, with the daughter making a play for his innocence but at least the mother keeping her hands off him. Escalante holds back from the mordant comedy route and gazes with a more sombre eye at social inequities and some wildly lawless police. A Dostoevsky quote on the screen at the start talks about the cheapness of life and a yen for suicide, and those things could apply to the whole of today’s Mexico if one were to be harsh about it.
 
Other elements are thrown in – a religious cult with a big grudge against the family; local narcos who leave a six-year-old in a coffin; a baby snatched and left in a cactus grove. Such plotlines fire off without being really chased down, with the exception of Emiliano’s messed-up relationship with his level-headed girlfriend (Mafer Osio).
 
Emiliano is a little too taciturn and watchful in his avenging for us fully to root for him, and the main story lacks Ruth Rendellian twists. It seems far from likely, meanwhile, that a celebrity Mexican household with this many enemies would turn to their handy-lad to be their sole security detail, as eventually happens.
 
But the performances are generally strong and Escalante (who won best director at Cannes in 2013 with Heli) directs with big, confident, male-gaze lensing, capturing a wide barren land that seems both dreamy and amnesiac. He doesn’t have the stylisation of a Cuarón or the ferocious focus of an Iñárritu, but he’s clear-eyed in knowing there’s little space and time for coming-of-age in Mexico – not in small towns where teens grab assault weapons to go hunting cartels, and six-year-olds end up in coffins. 
Escalante knows there’s little time for coming-of-age in Mexico

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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