I Stay With You


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

I Stay With You
"The film is likely to be branded 'controversial', the biggest pity is that there is very little to say about it beyond that."

How long you are likely to stay with this debut feature from Artemio Narro will be largely determined by your tolerance for sexual violence, albeit given a break from norm here in that it is directed towards a man rather than a woman. This shift of emphasis is, in itself, not enough, as the lack of decent motiviation for the one-note characters and believability in their actions are just as much a problem here as they are in many 'torture porn' films where the victim is a woman. Also, merely showing that women can be as bad as men, hardly makes for an incisive scrutiny of gender arguments.

Things begin in an unassuming, almost soapy way, with Spaniard Natalia (Beatriz Arjona) arriving in Mexico to be spend time with her filmmaker boyfriend Esteban (Diego Luna in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo) - the film begins with the shouted word "action", presumably to emphasise its 'construction' (although this feels more borne out of affectation than concrete motive). As Estaban is out of town, Natalia is invited to spend some time with his gal pals Ana (Anajosé Aldrete Echevarria) and Sofia (Flor Eduarda Gurrola). They tell her about their crazy chica friend Valeria (Ximena González-Rubio) for whom anything goes.

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They head up to her mansion and then out on the town, with Natalia the country mouse running with the city rats. Several tequila slammers later and they rock up in a male-dominated bar where a cowboy (wearing virginal white) takes a shine to the Spaniard. In the first, but not last, of the film's unlikely gear changes, Natalia is suddenly more than happy to make out with the man, prompted by seemingly no more than the fact she can't get Esteban on the phone, and takes him to the back seat of the girls' motor for some heavy petting. But when the rest of the girls pile in to the car, things take a turn for the nasty and it's not long before their stallion is hitched to a poll, fed viagra and his humiliation begins.

If Narro has previously favoured exuberance, with scenes involving the girls in the bar colourfully subtitled to emphasise the noise levels or a moment when they play fight poolside supplemented by the noise of lions on the soundtrack, once they have their prey tied up, he opts for austerity and, predominantly, locked-off shots, with the girls moving in and out of the frame. While it would be hard enough to suspend disbelief over the fact that the Mexicans need little more than a few drinks to get the desire for sadism, the transformation of Natalia lacks any sort of credibility. We are expected to believe that with virtually no coercion, she is prepared to not only except the situation but venomously join in.

Narro's excess extends to spending far too long in the torturing of the man - a problem that in all likelihood stems from the improvised nature of a lot of the scripting (his directorial statement says, "dialogue will not be written beforehand") - which has led the director to hang around in scenes too long hoping that 'magic' will happen. The formal austerity is also presumably intended to make things uncomfortable for the audience in the manner of Michael Haneke's Funny Games, but with the characters changing on a dime, it becomes little more than an exercise in seeing how far he will push things. Narro's decision to feature random unicorns - including one man in unicorn mask suddenly appearing to play pool as the torture continues - appears to be, like so much else in the film, simply done for the hell of it.

There is a brief moment, when one of the women suggests to Natalia that everything will be fine because Valeria's dad has the money to solve any problem, which hints at what might have been. But this critique of Mexican society is quickly passed over and underexplored. The film is likely to be branded 'controversial', the biggest pity is that there is very little to say about it beyond that.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2015
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When a woman travels to Mexico City to be with her boyfriend, she hooks up with some of his friends... but the trip brings more than she bargains for.

Director: Artemio Narro

Writer: Artemio Narro

Starring: Anajosé Aldrete Echevarria, Iván Arana, Beatriz Arjona, Ximena Gonzalez-Rubio, Flor Eduarda Gurrola, Diego Luna, José María de Tavira

Year: 2014

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Mexico


EIFF 2015

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