La Llorona (2020) excels to create an interesting new take on the folk tale filled with horror and insightful nuances.
Just like many Latinos, I was told the fear inducing story of La Llorona at a very young age. I was about six years old and my abuelita told us the story of this “weeping woman.” Now, the version I was told goes as follows. La Llorona was an indigenous woman who lived by the border. She had two kids, a boy and a girl, who she loved very much but she fell in love with a man who lived in the United States. La Llorona falls for the man but his feelings aren’t as strong as hers. After a rocky relationship he leaves her and she stays in Mexico while he travels up north for work. La Llorona believes that nothing could be wrong with her that could cause this man to leave her. She comes to the conclusion that her kids are at fault and one night she takes her children to the Rio Grande River to drown them. As they lose their life being drowned La Llorona realizes that she has done wrong and proceeds to drown herself. As she meets her creator, her God tells her that she cannot enter their kingdom until she finds her children and truly understands the severity of her acts. La Llorona comes back down to Earth and every night she weeps “mis hijos (my children)” as she searches for them. If you encounter her she may take your children from you especially if they roam the river alone.
I would like to remind you all that I grew up on the border so this kept me far away from the river which was possibly the goal of this story being told to me at such a young age. The story of La Llorona has gone through changes various times that we don’t really know the actual story or where it originated from. One thing is true though, all of its incarnations have been fear inducing. The story of La Llorona has been translated onto the silver screen before but was done terribly at adapting such a terrifying story. On the contrary, what I watched on Shudder was far from being terrible.
La Llorona (2020) is set in Guatemala as General Enrique Monteverde is tried for genocide after him and his army murdered many of the local indigenous population in the 80’s. At first, Monteverde is tried and found guilty of genocide but because the old man is not in the best of condition he is allowed to stay at his home under a form of house arrest. After losing all but one of his helpers at the home he employs a beautiful indigenous woman with long black hair and a white gown. Once Alma the new housekeeper starts to work for them and various protests happening every day, something starts to feel very strange within the home as the effects of isolation start to settle in.
Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona (2020) is exhilarating, nuanced, and downright incredible. First of all, let me talk about the bare minimum, La Llorona is an indigenous woman and the fact that she is played by an indigenous actress is beautiful to see. Not only is she casted appropriately but her and the various indigenous people in the film talk different dialects of the Mayan language. Such important characteristics that seem to be the bare minimum are never represented in Hollywood. The way that this Guatemalan film incorporates the folk story makes for an incredibly interesting retelling. The modern retelling and commentary of Latin American politics within this horror film is vastly nuanced. Instead of focusing entirely on the folklore of La Llorona, the film uses the story more as a backbone to create the bone chilling atmosphere of the picture. Maria Mercedes Coroy as Alma/La Llorona is incredible and goosebumps inducing. Every deep stare from her feels like it is looking deep into your soul. Everything from the performances, cinematography, and fluid direction makes for quite a picture. La Llorona (2020) is truly a masterful effort from Bustamante and their team of creatives.
This film is one of the best of the year, and I highly recommend you all watch it as soon as possible. Watch La Llorona (2020) on Shudder.
Christopher Nolan’s back at it again, a triumphant return to save or at least help keep cinema progressing in these uncertain times we are living.
What for me might be his best comes after a myriad of delays and issues through some of the most trying months in recent decades, and he still delivers the cinema experience. The film was a welcome and dearly missed feeling for 2 hours and a half (add on up to half an hour depending on your cinema’s add and trailers). I completely forgot about 2020 and everything that has been happening as of late.
From Nolan’s masterful sound design, the way it blends brilliantly crafted gunshots and other audio effects with Ludwig Göransson’s massive and bo bass-driven score to the way these tease Travis Scott’s “The Plan”-written for the film by Göransson, Scott and WondaGurl (Ebony Naomi Oshunrinde). There are multiple times the film is bringing in enough of the intro to the song to notice without feeling overbearing to the point it feels natural when it plays later.
If you weren’t all-in on John David Washington already, I don’t know what your excuse can be post-Tenet. The man leads this film without any hiccups when it comes to action while going toe to toe with Robert Pattinson and Kenneth Branagh dramatically. His performance builds and maintains chemistry with Elizabeth Debicki and forming one formidably charismatic duo with the aforementioned, Pattinson. If this film dragged or had many issues, this duo could probably mask quite a few, given that it doesn’t have any glaring ones of note, they shine all the brighter. These core four are surrounded quite well with some notable smaller roles where Michael Caine, Clémence Poésy, Himesh Patel, Dimple Kapadia, and Aaron Taylor Johnson all do very well with their screentime.
Tenet is a film that plays with palindromes, metaphors, and contrasting ideas while planting enough seeds throughout, for there always to be something in the background to enjoy upon a rewatch or further inspection, and while Nolan plays with the ideas of inversion the actions scenes involving these are sublime. Even the smaller, more mundane aspects have you walking out of the cinema as if you were the one inverted for at least a few steps. And I don’t know in the end, as a viewer I can’t get over the birds.
We may have no friends at dawn, but if you enjoyed Tenet, you have one in this fellow viewer. Tenet is playing in theaters internationally and will be opening limitedly in the United States on September 2nd.
Park Chan-wook conclude his Vengeance Trilogy with one of the most underrated pieces of cinema ever created.
The final film in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is another fantastic inclusion in the masterclass of work that he has created. Lady Vengeance (2005) follows a similar pattern to Oldboy (2003) as it follows a woman released from prison for a murder she did not commit. Lee Geum-ja played by Lee Young-ae seeks revenge from the real murderer and this gets bloody fast. Now, even if the story sounds similar to Oldboy (2003), Chan-wook turns the table on you and creates another riveting and nuanced installment in his trilogy. The film not only follows by the beat of its drum but it also manages to include some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve seen yet.
Park Chan-wook is a director of many skills and this movie shows how rough his work can be but also including such tender nuances like the importance of a Mother being there for her daughter, sharing trauma to move past it together, and truly not being able to move on from trauma even if it is “fixed.” The world of this film is grim with a prison system that is so corrupt and unorganized that it allows for sexual assault and power structures to emerge inside. There’s a scene that truly empowers the idea of “teamwork makes the dream work.” I am so happy that I watched these three incredible films, and cannot wait to finish the rest of his filmography. One thing is certain, Park Chan-wook is my favorite Korean director and I am one hundred percent confident of that.
Watch Lady Vengeance (2005) on Shudder. Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.
The first film of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is explosive, bloody, and incredibly nuanced from start to end.
I don’t know if I am just excited to continue with this challenge or just the thought of watching and reviewing a film by legendary Korean director, Park Chan-wook, which makes me incredibly excited? This is the first of his Vengeance Trilogy and I am starting to feel somewhat dumb for watching this one after Oldboy (2003) but maybe after this is all done I will watch the trilogy in order. Even though I had watched other films of his before this absolutely nothing could prepare me for this anxiety-inducing film from Chan-wook.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) follows the story of a deaf brother and his girlfriend as they try to acquire money for a kidney transplant for his sister by holding a wealthy man’s daughter for ransom. The film includes the cast of Song Kang-ho, Bae Doona, Han Bo-bae, and Im Ji-eun as they deliver excellent performances. Everyone is fantastic in this film, but I have to give it up for Shin Ha-kyun whose body language and mannerisms truly make the character of Ryu. Of course, Song Kang-ho is incredible as he always is and I think I might have to admit that he is probably one of if not the best Korean actor of all time.
The film does take a bit to unravel at first but once it picks up you are in for a ride that only Park Chan-wook can create. There are blood, sweat, and tears throughout this whole film with incredible levels of nuance on the subject matter. Once again, Chan-wook is no stranger to tackling classism and the faults of capitalism. He also tackles the state of the opposition against the higher class and how some may not even think such opposition even exists. Not only is this well written but it is photographed magnificently by Kim Byung-il, seriously every other shot can be hung up on a wall as an art piece. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) is another masterpiece by the genius director and one that stands out in his already prolific filmography.
Watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) on Shudder. You can keep up with this movie challenge of mine by checking out my Letterboxd or the google doc of all the films I will be watching and reviewing.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) is a perfectly crafted film that plays a tune with your heartstrings that you never want to end.
So if you were betting that I wouldn’t give out a five star in the first five movies I review for this challenge, then sadly today you lost, my friends. I don’t think I could even prepare myself for this movie. I wanted to watch this one not just because it won the Palme d’Or, but I’ve been recommended to watch Kore-eda’s work multiple times. I have to say that this did not disappoint in the slightest.
Shoplifters (2018) features a group of outsiders all banded together by their misfit qualities take into their home a little girl, which sets off a wide array of events and secrets surrounding the “family.” The film has its various twists and turns, which makes you learn to love this obscure family. You spend so much time with each character that makes it hard to say goodbye to some of them. Kor-eda does such a great job of making you care for these characters that when you find out the reason why they are together, it is hard to hold onto your prior feelings about them.
Kor-eda also includes necessary conversations in social class structures and classism. Why is it that the family has to shoplift to survive? Why do some of the family members have to resort to sex work as a means of making money? Overall, do any of these things make these strangers any less of a family than those of us bound by blood? The analysis included in this film is powerful and one that I will keep in mind when discussing some of the best movies from this challenge.
Shoplifters (2018) is available to watch on Hulu. Catch up on the rest of this challenge by visiting my Letterboxd or the google doc that includes all the films that I am covering. I implore every single person reading this review to watch this film, you will absolutely not regret it.