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August Evening follows an aging undocumented farm worker named Jaime and his young, widowed daughter-in-law, Lupe, as their lives are thrown into upheaval. Lupe is more of a daughter to Jaime than his own children, and the two try to stick together... but change is inevitable. Written by
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August Evening has a very human, heartfelt story, adequate acting and pleasant cinematography but what it doesn't have is a sense of pacing. Painfully slow too much of the time, most of the poignancy of the film is lost as the camera lingers mercilessly on dull activities and faces that have finished delivering meaningful expressions.
Jaime (Pedro Castaneda) and his wife Maria (Raquel Gavia) live together in a poverty-stricken town in Mexico, where they trudge through life, working hard and enjoying each other's company. Their daughter-in-law Lupe (Veronica Loren) lives with them, unable to detach herself from the painful memories of her husband who died tragically several years ago.
When Maria dies unexpectedly, Jaime is so distraught that he loses his focus on caring for himself and Lupe, and ends up losing his job and his home. First the two rely on Jaime's son Victor, who provides them with a room to stay in but tension between the estranged family forces them to leave. Next they travel to Alice's house (Jaime's daughter) where she lives more than comfortably in an extravagant home with her wealthy husband. Alice isn't prepared to deal with Jaime's increasing drunkenness and Lupe's constant presence, and so the inseparable duo again must find new housing.
This time Lupe lands a job at a monotonous factory, while Jaime scours the streets and neighborhoods, looking for random jobs, such as mowing lawns. Jaime eventually realizes that he can't remain dependent on Lupe's good will, and attempts to get her to marry the nice boy in town, Luis (Walter Perez). Completely unwilling at first, Lupe eventually learns to appreciate Luis' careful and sincere advances, and she realizes that change is inevitable for her and Jaime.
The themes of righting wrongs, making amends, the importance of family, and the power of love are all well developed and beautifully presented. Each character is brought to life in careful detail, and the simple story creates an authenticity beyond most large-budget films. The problem with August Evening is not its storytelling, but rather its storytelling technique. Instead of focusing on the plot and using the characters to advance the touching tale, the camera lingers too long on unimportant details.
With an initially shaky-cam-strategy, much of the film is shot to duplicate real life in flat, warm colors that represent commonplace settings and natural lighting from a dusty desert town. But with the unnecessary attention to generic activities, such as washing dishes, eating food, lingering on close-up expressions and reminiscing and pondering the day's events, everything moves at a snail's pace, even though the film is just barely over two hours. The simplicity of the film is commendable, as are the sincere and charming performances but staying aboard this wearisome cruise may be too much of a task for the average viewer.
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