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Daniel and Ana, brother and sister, best friends. Both are at pivotal, defining moments in their contented lives. Ana is about to be married, Daniel is a gregarious teenager discovering his personal and sexual identity. Yet their harmony is instantly shattered when they are kidnapped and something shocking happens which forces them to confront their desires and fears. Suddenly their old lives are a distant memory. Now, nothing they have known will ever be the same again. Written by
The Film Catalogue
a study in trauma: shocking abuse, tedious aftermath
A brother and sister fall victim to an express kidnapping, during which they are hideously violated. (Although several reviews specify what happens, I think it's better not to give it away. Suffice to say the kidnappers borrow a page from the Japanese army's Nanking handbook.) The film follows the aftermath of this abuse, showing how the siblings' character and behaviour are altered. Except for a surprising reprise of the horror, there are few actual events in the balance of the film. Much of what we see on screen is the protagonists acting surly and withdrawn, avoiding people or giving monosyllabic responses. (The clueless parents see both their children begin to behave out of character at the same time but never seem to consider that there might be a common cause.) I believe it would take truly superior actors to infuse this script with the drama befitting the characters' experience and in my opinion, Bernal and Vega are not up to it. This may be a minority opinion, since other viewers have found their performances compelling. Of course, the script doesn't give them a whole lot to work with and bears the lion's share of the responsibility for the tedium of the siblings' goings-on. However, the kidnapping scene could, by all rights, have showcased first class dramatic skills and the leaden acting we see there tells us the actors have a long way to go. (The leads do shine by comparison to their captors, though. It is hard to watch the kidnapper give his spiel and not think of Hannah Arendt's phrase "the banality of evil." Considering the capabilities of these actors, I believe making that scene so detailed showed poor judgment.) One thing worth highlighting is that this film is closer to a vignette than a structured narrative. Despite some indications to the contrary, I believe there is no culminating climax or resolution--it is pretty flat after the kidnapping. The film is supposedly based on a true story and may hew very close to real life, which, of course, is seldom a structured narrative. That may be some viewers' cup of tea; if it isn't yours, think twice about seeing this film. In short, there is a disparity between the film's subject matter and the execution. The premise is not for the faint of heart but its enormous dramatic potential is dissipated in flat, repetitive scenes.
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