Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The simplicity of the set-up allows for a tautness, wound ever tighter by a rich score from Paulo Gallo, using slippery strings goosed by flutes, and sound design from Isaac Moreno and Mauricio López that emphasises the wildness of the setting."

If there's one thing that cinema has taught us down the years, it's that messing about on boats rarely works out well for the middle classes and this tense addition to the sub-genre from Nicolas Postiglione shows you don't even need to be on the open water in order to find yourself all at sea.

The yacht in this instance, is owned by Ricardo (Alfredo Castro), who has brought his two grown daughters Tere (Consuelo Carreño) and Claudia (Mariela Mignot) on a day trip to his empty childhood home, which his brother wishes to sell. Tensions are immediately obvious between him and Tere, her long-standing resentment over his absenteeism as a father manifesting itself in small acts of rebellion, such as going topless to provoke him. As the girls crack open a beer, their father waxes lyrical, while noting, without a trace of irony as to who was there first, that the indigenous Mapuche "have ruined this place".

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Who has let what go to ruin is something Postiglione and his co-writers Agustín Toscano and Moisés Sepulveda leave brewing in the background throughout the film, as the tranquil day takes a turn when the trio hear men crying out. Some distance away is a small boat, three men bailing out water. Ricardo immediately pulls up the anchor - the sight of its chain clattering up over the edge of the boat just one of the small details Postiglione often focuses on to help generate tension and a sense of claustrophobia - but instead of heading to help the trio, he puts the boat full throttle in the opposite direction.

It's here that Castro's performance is crucial, his fear and stress obvious, and, as Tere begins to quiz him about the men - her dad claims they're just messing about, while she knows there's something more going on - the script is on the money as they have a perfect bit of cross-talk, she increasingly worried about the men and her father's reaction, he taking refuge in asking her to cover herself up. Castro and Carreño played a similar, if even darker emotional duet in Some Beasts and the pair again prove to be a sparky partnership. This whole encounter is only the start of the tensions, as, even though Ricardo has, apparently, put the problem in the rear-view mirror, the arrival at the house - completely dilapidated and with evidence of squatting - only gives the situation time to brew.

The writers use time wisely, to make us, like Tere, think about what might be happening to the men back out on the lake. The house also gives the script an opportunity to show us the tendency for potentially irrational fear to generate overreaction when Tere gets her hair caught in a spider's web. Fear here comes in many forms as we see that Ricardo's fear of being thought a coward in the mind of his daughters initially trumps his paranoia about the young men - and they return in a bid to help.

The rest of the film is built on this closer encounter with Walter (Michael Silva) and Conrado (Alex Quevedo), who, in an ambiguity that fuels the rest of the film, may just be nervous and worried about the third man who went swimming after Ricardo's boat, or may be hiding something more sinister in a large bag they have with them. As the sun slowly fades, the air of threat builds, not just between Ricardo with his barely concealed racism and classism and the men, who are inevitably suspicious given that the family already left them to potentially drown, but between the father and his daughter's whose attitude to 'the other' is much more accommodating than his and in Tere's case, only further fanned by its potential to upset her dad.

The simplicity of the set-up allows for a tautness, wound ever tighter by a rich score from Paulo Gallo, using slippery strings goosed by flutes, and sound design from Isaac Moreno and Mauricio López that emphasises the wildness of the setting. Postiglione, meanwhile, let's our sympathies rock back and forth with the boat, tacitly asking how our innate prejudices might shape events just as much as the actions of others. Don't bet against an American remake.

Reviewed on: 27 Nov 2021
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A father and his daughters face a dilemma while they're out on a lake.

Director: Nic Postiglione

Writer: Nic Postiglione, Moisés Sepúlveda, Agustín Toscano

Starring: Consuelo Carreño, Alfredo Castro, Mariela Mignot, Alex Quevedo, Michael Silva

Year: 2021

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Chile, Mexico


Black Nights 2021

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