Identifying Features (2021) movie review

Valadez, who co-wrote the screenplay with Astrid Rondero, balances this dramatic tension by mingling magical realism and images from another world. Some scenes appear to be slightly distorted or doctored so that the viewer feels the mother’s unease viscerally. For example, there are scenes triggered by fire that appear oversaturated in red, an intensity burning across the screen as a character transforms into violence to survive. In another scene, when Magdalena consults with a native elder to find out what happened to her son, we see what they see: visions of a horned figure, an evil tail backlit by flames burning in the sky. ‘towards. This is not a good omen. One morning, Magdalena relives the moment when her son came to see her to tell her that he was leaving. Half the color is faded by dirty windows, but it is shown in crisp detail. She is haunted by a moment that now seems to fade around the edges, but at its center her son is frozen in time and memory.

Just as “tigers are not afraid”, the cartel violence that has plagued Mexico in recent years is turning into a fantastic force of evil. People are afraid to recognize him or even speak out loud about his crimes. Everyone learns to accept his forced presence in his life. There’s a scene at a bus station where Magdalena is trying to get answers when a nice stranger tells her what happened to her son through the door of a bathroom cubicle. It is as if the women’s room is the only safe space away from men and their violence. This force seems almost supernaturally powerful when the woman says the bus company has lost buses and entire passengers, only their luggage arriving at the station. Often, Magdalena is aided by whispers and warnings, guiding her impossible search. This trail of breadcrumb-like clues also lies in a texture of silent fear on the film. During her travels, she meets Miguel (David Illescas), a recent deportee from the United States who reminds her of her son. On his return trip south, he crosses the militarized border in what looks like a haunting take by Emmanuel Lubezki. The camera follows Miguel’s back as he and others walk towards Mexico through a tunnel of cold concrete. After a few tight bottlenecks and a slight clutter, it seems to be on its own way as it walks through the dark night air. Then, he looks over his right shoulder at the hazy sea of ​​red tail lights lined up to cross the border into Mexico. It’s a visual reminder that the personal tragedies of Magdalena, and now Miguel, are just one of countless others. At the moment, Miguel is alone, physically separated from the rest and isolated by his situation.

Growing up as a child of immigrants, I was taught that coming to the United States was always a good thing, even if it was difficult. It wasn’t until I was older that I fully began to realize the emotional and mental consequences that this has taken on so many families, and that was if those who had left home came to the other side. . I noticed the scars between the families separated by borders, the haunting detachment from everyone you have always loved and everything you have known. It is a pain that does not go away easily, if it ever goes away. In the hands of Valadez, cinematographer Claudia Becerril Bulos, the film’s sound crew and composer Clarice Jensen, “Identifying Features” peels this feel-good façade from the narrative of “coming to America” to a reality much more painful, a reality that feels fresh drenched in tears, sorrow and titles. It’s a striking film that boldly confronts the indifferent governments on either side of the border and the cartels that have turned these areas into nightmares while mourning the human cost of losing a loved one to uncertainty and those who never will. home again.

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