Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
Original Title: Temblores
Guatemala/France/Luxembourg, 2019. Tu Vas Voir Productions, La Casa de Production, Memento Films Production, Iris Productions, Arte France Cinema, Iris Group. Screenplay by Jayro Bustamante. Cinematography by Luis Armando Arteaga. Produced by Jayro Bustamante, Gérard Lacroix, De Jesus Peralta Orellana Marina, Georges Renand, Edgard Tenembaum. Music by Pascual Reyes. Costume Design by Beatriz Lantán. Film Editing by Cesar Diaz, Santiago Otheguy.
The son of a large, wealthy Guatemalan family has drawn the concern and anger of his relatives after leaving his wife and two children in the cushy suburbs to live in a ratty apartment in the city with the man he now says he loves. Pablo’s family, including his very angry wife Isa, are deeply religious evangelicals who want to see this rift healed for the sake not only of their reputation but for the purpose of their son’s eternal soul. Pablo’s lover Francisco, however, has no time for religion and can’t understand this hold that the family has over the man, which gets more intense as Pablo’s life start to fall apart. He is fired from his job, denied access to his children and threatened with violence when he tries to keep up a relationship with family members or his church, while tortured by doubts of whether or not he has found his true self with Francisco or is being lead astray from his essential truth. Eventually he feels bullied into trying things his family’s way, signing up for behavioral therapy in the hopes that it will at least restore access to his children. This film’s intention is to show a society held back by religious ignorance and too much faith in a limited idea of virile masculinity, but it fails to be convincing thanks to its reliance on a very limited understanding of its characters or their situations. Pablo and Francisco don’t have anything that resembles a real relationship, Francisco in particular just feels like a mouthpiece for ideas about an alternative to the norm and he and Pablo don’t spend enough time together convincing us that they share any kind of powerful intimacy. The religious family members are only ever given one thing to do, attack, and have no vulnerability or love when it comes to Pablo, only fear, judgment and, presumably, a shallow desire to preserve beliefs that they never properly examine. Isa presented so viciously that I wonder if someone on the filmmaking team is getting revenge on someone, a real harpy who could be a villain in a Disney cartoon and, like everyone else in this movie, is never affected by anyone around her nor shows any growth or wisdom. That this story represents the real experience of people in small, closed communities is more than likely, but being dramatically convincing isn’t the same thing as having your facts in order, and as a result this movie feels more like a lecture than a piece about a society struggling to catch up with the modern world.