Daniel & Ana

Daniel & Ana


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Daniel & Ana might sound like the sort of name given to the latest slice of Hollywood romcom frippery, but don't take your first date by accident, as this is a far more grim slice of life than that.

The titular pair are, in fact, brother and sister whom we meet, along with their extended family, as Ana prepares for her wedding to Rafa, the only cloud on the horizon being a possible argument with her husband-to-be as to whether they should move to Spain. The decision ahead pales in comparison to what happens next. While Daniel and Ana are out in the car, they are set upon in a random carjacking/kidnapping - although confusion of scripting (or possibly subtitling) here, makes it seem possible it may have been planned - and taken to a house where they are forced to have sex with one another on camera.

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The film then concerns itself with the aftermath of this horrific act, as the pair try to come to terms with what has happened.

This is, to a point, commendable - although end credit details about the prevalence of 'underground porn' and crimes perpetrated by those looking to create it would better serve the audience if they were mentioned at the start - but this is cinema of discomfort taken to the extreme. While, you can see the reasoning behind writer/director Michel Franco's decision to show us every second of the siblings' humiliation and debasement to somehow make us 'complicit' in the act, I'm not convinced he needs to linger quite so long here. Cinema, while being a means to educate, should also entertain and it's hard to know who exactly will willingly sign up to watch quite so much sex couched in quite such a disturbing set up. On the opposite end of the equation, this early scene although initially uncomfortable, goes on so long that it, at best, feels unnecessarily graphic and, at worst, like borderline titilation - surely not the director's intention.

The film's problems don't start or end there. The initial set up introduces so many characters it is very difficult to get a handle on who is who, particularly in the younger generation, which means it is all the harder to piece together what is going on emotionally for the characters, particularly Daniel, in the aftermath. Our lack of attachment to and understanding of Daniel is exacerbated by a lack of screen time. Although, since Ana is the one who more readily seeks help for problems it makes her more interesting initially, the forcing of Daniel into the background before relying on his actions heavily in the latter stages of the film makes for an uneven narrative.

If the storytelling is somewhat cumbersome, there are no such problems on the acting front. Dario Yazbek Bernal (the younger half-brother of Gael Garcia) proves to be as consummate an actor as his older sibling and, in fact, some of his character's actions here are reminiscent of Gael's character in The King. Marimar Vega, whose background is in television, shows in her delicate portrayal of Ana that more film work is likely to beckon. The problem remains, however, even though this is 'based on a 'real' story, its doubtful whether there is a 'real' audience for it.

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2010
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Dramatisation of a true-life ordeal of a brother and sister at the hands of Mexico's underground porn trade.
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Director: Michel Franco

Writer: Michel Franco

Starring: Dario Yazbek Bernal, Marimar Vega, Chema Torre

Year: 2009

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Mexico, Spain

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If you like this, try:

The King