Friday, September 1, 2023

Life is a Party

Tótem (2023) - Avilés Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.09.29 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.12.52 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.15.38 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.15.53 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.16.11 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 5.18.52 PM Screen Shot 2023-09-01 at 11.01.23 AM Takes place in a day, Lila Avilés's Tótem tells a family gathering for the birthday of Tona, a young man dying of cancer, seen through the eyes of his 9 year old daughter, Sol (Naíma Sentíes). With her mom who is a theater actor, she is on her way to her grandfather's house. At the house, it's total chaos as Tona's two older sisters who are trying to prepare for the party. With more and more guests arriving - cousins and friends, sisters get on each others nerves - they argue about the responsibilites and about money, while Sol roams the house, eavesdropping, discovering various animals, playing with her cousins. Most of all, she wants to see her father, who is incapacitated most of the time in a room with the help of a personal nurse, Cruz (played by a great actress, Teresa Sánchez- Summer of Goliath, Fauna, Dos Estaciones). Tona, in great pain, is unsure if he can make it to the party.

We often try our best to shield children from the ugly life of grownups: responsibilites, money, parenthood, guilt.... Young Sentís, like Anna Torres before her in Victor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive, shines as a young, innocent child full of life, but who is old enough to realize that there's something awry about adulthood. Death is something we experience more and more as we grow older. It changes you and perhaps makes you grow up faster. The ending shot of young Sol looking straigth through the birthday cake candles, conveys that understanding without saying any words. Delicate and infinitely patient in her storytelling, Avilés let the film play out as it is supposed to. A beautiful film.

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