2019, NR, 177 min. Directed by Carlos Reygadas. Starring Carlos Reygadas, Natalia López, Eleazar Reygadas, Rut Reygadas, Phil Burgers, Maria Hagerman, Yago Martínez.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., June 28, 2019
There are many people to blame for the auteur theory in film. But it is mostly the French. The idea of a film, and particularly its mise-en-scène, springing forth like Athena from Zeus’ head has a long history: from the venerable journal Cahiers du Cinéma and François Truffaut’s writings to André Bazin and those fucking Structuralists (I’m looking at you, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes). But if there is a filmmaker currently working on his own terms – a major tenet of that theory – it is Mexican writer/director Carlos Reygadas. Often inserting himself into his films as a major character and using the film format to work through issues that he is obviously struggling with himself, his work becomes an often intensely personal experience for the viewer, which in turn can become both cathartic and banal.
There are wondrous moments in Our Time, Reygadas’ latest navel-gazing epic, and they mostly involve children. The opening scenes of kids frolicking on the beach, drenched in sunlight and water, speak to carefree and idyllic moments that the filmmaker likes to juxtapose with the dramatic material he is concerned with. In this case, an esteemed poet, Juan (Reygadas), who with his wife Ester (López) is a rancher in the beautifully depicted Mexican countryside. But she has eyes on an American rancher nearby, Phil (Burgers), and infidelity and complications ensue. There are various characters giving voiceovers, pastoral environments that are often breathtaking, but one can’t help but think that this project was some sort of therapy for the filmmaker.
Which is fine, and often the case. But the lazy way the narrative flows feels overwrought at times, and the cuckolded husband story is trite. My favorite scene in the film follows a girl riding her bike across a muddy path. It is wondrously fleeting, but that is what Reygadas does best. It’s a shame that the narrative, with often astute and eloquent reflections on humanity, fails to cohere as a whole and gets bogged down by a common love triangle. Our Time is gorgeously filmed, but it is also vapid, and perhaps the languorous mind of this auteur needs to be shaken up.