Cine Las Americas 2018 Review: VIGILIA (BEING AWAKE)

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

I found this particular surreal drama a little difficult to decipher at first, but I must say that its presentation does have a very striking effect.  Heavy in religious and morbid imagery, Vigilia tells the story of an already dysfunctional family completely falling apart during a terrible drought.  After being away from home for some time, Santiago (Pablo Rios) finds himself lost and alone in a desert.  He seems lost, disoriented and unsure of how he got there, but he gets himself together and heads home.  Like the prodigal son of the Biblical parable, he hopes to be welcomed home by his family.  However, his angry, cold-hearted father Ernesto (Osmar Nunez) doesn’t quite give him the love he seeks.

In fact, things seem way worse than when he left.  His ill mother (Mirella Pascual) seems to suffer from a mind-altering disease so bad that she doesn’t even recognize her own son.  The severe drought has taken a toll on the rich life this family once enjoyed.  As things continue to fall apart, Ernesto decides to kill their dog Aron, a pet who has gone wild and out of control. Things continue to decline, as does the mental health of everyone in the household.  Life at the family home becomes a veritable nightmare for everyone there.

Written and directed by Julieta Ledesma, this Argentinian/Uruguayan co-production does leave a powerful, but sometimes bewildering mark.  It isn’t an easy film to digest, but one that requires much thought and reflection.  Some people might not make any sense whatsoever of what Ledesma is trying to express through her art, but I was able to grasp some key messages about the decline of humanity through selfishness and excess.  When the well goes dry, ironically life becomes an even more slippery slope.  I felt the film is a tad too heavy on imagery, but Ledesma still shows some talent as an artistically driven filmmaker.  With a better script, I feel that she can do some truly amazing work.

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