OPENS FEBRUARY 21, CERT 15, 137 MINS
A world-weary, middle-aged man (Alejandro Ferretis) leaves the din of Mexico City and heads out into the remote countryside to prepare for his own death. That’s the starting point for young Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ sombre, elegiac first feature. Ironically, in this arid wilderness, the man’s appetite for life returns. He becomes closer and closer to the elderly, very religious Indian widow (Magdalena Flores) with whom he takes lodgings at the mouth of a huge canyon. He tries to protect her from her unscrupulous nephew, who’s after her property. In one scene, which could easily have seemed prurient or lapsed into Harold And Maude-style comedy, he has sex with her. Reygadas handles the potentially embarrassing encounter with such delicacy and gentleness that it defies anyone to laugh.
Despite occasional lurches into existential pretentiousness, this is a highly impressive debut which underlines the recent resurgence in Mexican cinema. Reygadas has an eye for landscape as well as an ability to coax resonant understated performances from his non-professional actors.