By Roger Costa
Marking the fictional feature debut of Mexican director Juan Pablo Gonzalez, this poignant and rigorous drama set in the lands of Jalisco, where the director was born and raised, is above all a tribute to the hardworking people who struggle to preserve their land, traditions and what’s left from their origins, including their achievement in local businesses. Bringing a revelatory performance by Teresa Sanchez as the heroine Maria, the macho-influenced owner of a renowned tequila factory dealing with financial difficulties, generational and social transformations, as well as aging and solitude, director Gonzalez leaves an impressive mark overall, subtly examining the subject of economic changes, the privatization of community resources and the battle for cultural and ethnic preservations with a kind and personal eye. He also composes incredibly affecting images revealing his ability to capture lyricism out of the ordinary, beauty out of the simple aspects in life. That brilliant aesthetic is made of his sensibility in generating contemplation through minimalist observations in the interiors of the factory, the angles inside her house, the vast, open landscape, the plantations, and the real-life images he witnesses among the villagers expecting a miracle. When she hires a young, talented assistant she learns the factory faces bankruptcy, but that’s when she sees an opportunity to enlighten her path with the young lady’s firm presence around her business, and gradually personal life. Things become harder and unexpected when a storm hits the area, threatening everyone’s safety and future.
Winner of the Special Jury Award for Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Screenwriting at OutFest ’22, Gonzalez scores a potent, naturalistic and humanistic portrait of female perseverance amidst economic threats.
(Cinema Guild. 9/9. IFC Center.)
HOLD ME TIGHT
In the role of a woman running away from her family for uncertain reasons, Vicky Krieps confirms herself as one of our most versatile and courageous contemporary actresses. In a dreamlike atmosphere that unites past, present and future, the film, helmed by Mathieu Amalric, in his sixth directorial effort, is a vivid, delicate and emphatic psychological dramatic thriller that keeps you guessing till the unpredictable climax. Marvelously edited and shot, it opens with Clarisse (Krieps) silently making her way out of the house before everyone else, her husband and two children, get to notice. At first, it seems like a puzzle about a woman’s self-liberation and midlife crisis set as a road trip, as she leaves the family behind and ventures on the French countryside roads, checking-in at a skiing resort. But then, it turns into something deeply mysterious and reflective as an analysis on family conflicts and traumas. Gradually, Amalric gives away the pieces of the enigmatic puzzle, anchored by Krieps’ heart-moving presence, and by the emotionally efficient children actors, connecting and resolving the family issue. Punctuated by a highly delicate piano soundtrack, mostly played by the aspiring daughter, and filled with breathtaking twists, Amalric scores his most accomplished film yet, a deeply engaged female character study, a devastatingly aching look at family bond.
(Kino Lorber. 9/9. Film at Lincoln Center and Angelika Film Center.)