It’s hard not to leave this sparse and atmospheric Peruvian drama feeling desolate. Likened to Roma (2018) for its lush black-and-white cinematography and focus on an indigenous woman in central America, it is profoundly moving but a more fragmented and opaque experience.
Set in 80s Peru, it is based on the experiences of the father of director Melina León. It is a time of huge inflation where prices would quadruple overnight. We follow the story of Georgina (Pamela Mendoza) and Leo (Lucio Rojas) living a subsistence lifestyle in a rural town outside Lima.
Georgina is pregnant and when she hears a radio ad offering free healthcare for pregnant women, she attends the clinic, ultimately giving birth there. Her baby is whisked away and she is ejected onto the street. The police are no help; she and Leo are indigenous from Huamanga province and have no official identification so they are ignored. After exhausting all official channels, Georgina turns to journalist Pedro Campos (Tommy Parraga) for help.
It’s an unusual treatment of what is a sobering story of racism and exploitation. Shots are long and sometimes opaque. The high contrast black-and-white gives a richness that is sometimes obscured by darkness and distortion, especially when we are in the isolated village where Georgina and Leo live. The Academy (4:3) ratio also stops this from having the exquisite and detailed vista of Roma.
Pedro has his own issues and for a while we get insight into how he is also marginalised. The narrative deliberately drags, then escalates, then ends. Nothing is really resolved, and we are left to contemplate the powerlessness and despair of those vulnerable to exploitation.
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