A grimly evocative study in the decline of a family, Ramon Cervantes’ “Resisting Life” marks the vet writer-helmer’s confident return to features from his usual post as an editor. Suffused with a doomy Mexican Gothic vibe that also retains some of the tradition of Federico Garcia Lorca’s dramas, Cervantes’ film immerses the viewer in the matriarch’s emotional devolution. Auds, particularly in Mexico, will either spark to this or firmly reject it, with little wiggle room in between. Sole market beyond the border is the fest circuit.
Cheery prelude in a stylish 1960 Mexico City is cut short when the family father is killed in a car accident, leaving mom Aurelia (Carmen Beato, in a tour de force) to manage alone with two girls and a third on the way.
Sixteen years later, portentous and Bunuelian events occur, such as the discovery of a slimy creature in the city sewers. Aurelia has never recovered from her loss, yet is not entirely a basket case; eldest Leonor (Rocio Verdejo) plays substitute mom by working to support the clan.Cervantes’ script wants to suggest Aurelia’s profound melancholia is contagious, affecting the two sisters — Beatriz (Sandra Rodriguez) and Nadia (Estephani Aguilar).
Film is pure atmosphere, mightily reinforced by production designer Alicia del Valle Elizondo and lenser Tonatiuh Martinez Valdez, filling the frame with the sense of a house rotting from within. Beato pushes things to the extreme with a performance that some may view as excessive, but which is ideally in tune with the pic’s operatic ickiness.