You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘La tirisia’

Perpetual sadness hangs over a remote region of Mexico where men leave and women mourn.

Gustavo Sanchez Parra, Adriana Paz, Noe Hernandez, Gabriela Cartol, Mercedes Hernandez, Alfredo Herrara.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2777420/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

A major theme of recent Latin American cinema — the erosion of the family caused by a parent leaving to work elsewhere in an endless chain of abandonment — assumes archetypal, quasi-mythical dimensions in Jorge Perez Solano’s “La tirisia.” Set in an arid landscape of towering cacti and cultivated salt flats, inhabited by women rooted to the earth while their men wander restlessly, the film is haunted by tirisia, a perpetual sadness defined as “the death of the spirit.” An exemplar of flourishing Mexican cinema, this slow-building, powerful film, told in imagistic pantomime, could lure arthouse auds beyond the fest circuit.

The film centers around two pregnant women. First, there’s Angeles (Gabriela Cartol), a sullen teen who seldom speaks, endlessly toys with her braid and sprawls on piles of salt, sifting it through her fingers. She lives with her equally mute mother, Serafina (Mercedes Hernandez), and her stepfather, Sylvestre (Gustavo Sanchez Parra), who has impregnated Angeles. The three seldom display any affection or emotion, Serafina appearing merely stoically upset when her husband peremptorily hauls her daughter off for rather one-sided sex. She resolves to send her daughter away once the baby is born and raise it herself. Sylvestre, meanwhile, roves around in a dilapidated pickup or stares longingly at planes passing overhead, secretly hoarding money for an airline ticket out.

The other pregnant woman is Cheba (Adriana Paz), a lively mother of two who gives birth alone on her kitchen floor; only gradually does it become evident that Sylvestre is this child’s father as well. Cheba adores the newborn, but when she learns that her long-absent husband, Carmelo (Alfredo Herrera), is homeward bound, she must make an impossible choice between abandoning the infant or leaving her hubby and other children. When Carmelo returns, he finds that his sexy, vivacious wife has turned into an inconsolable fountain of tears.

Although hints abound as to the cause of Cheba’s tirisia (including an extra basket containing the infant’s umbilical cord, hanging on a tree next to those of her other two children), the total lack of communication that reigns in this silent land discourages any resolution. A startling exception to the film’s oppressive silence is Cheba’s chatty gay friend and confident, Canelita (Noe Hernandez), whose homosexuality makes him the perfect “safe” male helpmate, and whose cheery, affectionate exchanges with his soldier boyfriend contrast mightily with the film’s dour heterosexual pairings.

Solano’s Mixteca is an ancient indigenous region, where the modern world exists only as a lure to elsewhere. In the film’s poetic opening scene, a red plastic bag that has flown in from outside is temporarily caught atop a tall cactus, arresting Angeles’ attention for long moments. A political rally in the church square proves too poorly attended for the candidate to even deign to descend from his motorcade. The ongoing drug wars ravaging Mexico merely traverse this remote area, impacting the inhabitants only when Canelita’s b.f. suddenly disappears, another significant other removed from the picture.

The haunting landscapes of lenser Cesar Gutierrez Miranda (who also co-produced) dominate the film, conveying a desolation mirrored in the timeless costumes and expressions of the peasantry who inhabit them.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'La tirisia'

Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on World Cinema), Aug. 23, 2014. Running time: 111 MIN.

Production: (Mexico) A Media Luna release of a Tirisia Cine, Imcine, Conaculta, Foprocine production. Produced by Cesar Gutierrez Miranda, Jorge Perez Solano.

Crew: Directed, written by Jorge Perez Solano. Camera (color, widescreen HD), Cesar Gutierrez Miranda; editor, Francisco X. Rivera; production design, Lola Ovando; sound designer (Dolby Digital), Galileo Galaz.

With: Gustavo Sanchez Parra, Adriana Paz, Noe Hernandez, Gabriela Cartol, Mercedes Hernandez, Alfredo Herrara.

More Film

  • Ad Astra Box Office

    Box Office Battle: 'Ad Astra' Takes on 'Rambo: Last Blood' and 'Downton Abbey'

    “Hustlers” and “Good Boys” proved that even in the age of Marvel dominance and remake mania, movies that don’t exist within an established franchise can still be box office draws. Can “Ad Astra” continue that trend? The space drama — starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray — arrives on the big screen this [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Accuser Lucia Evans Breaks

    Harvey Weinstein Accuser Lucia Evans Breaks Silence After D.A. Dropped Charge

    Lucia Evans gave a wrenching account on Tuesday of her efforts to hold Harvey Weinstein responsible for sexual assault, saying she felt betrayed after the Manhattan D.A.’s office dropped her allegations last year. Evans spoke to Variety after giving a speech at a conference on influencer fraud in Manhattan, making her first public comments on [...]

  • Ad Astra

    How 'Ad Astra' Production Crew Created Authentic Look for Brad Pitt Space Drama

    In “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride crosses the solar system to find and confront his long-lost father, requiring the movie crew to create an authentic-looking future that conveys the theme of traveling long distances to learn the lesson that it’s where you started from that has the most value. “Visually, the aim was [...]

  • Nahnatchka Khan'Always Be My Maybe' film

    'Fresh Off the Boat' Creator Nahnatchka Khan Signs First-Look Deal With Netflix

    Netflix has signed “Fresh Off the Boat” creator and executive producer Nahnatchka Khan to an exclusive multi-year first look deal for feature films. Khan made her feature film directorial debut with “Always Be My Maybe” starring Ali Wong and Randall Park. The romantic comedy premiered on Netflix in May and was seen by 32 million [...]

  • The Mover

    Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Costa Rica Announce Oscar Contenders

    Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro and Costa Rica are the latest countries to announce their entries for the newly rebranded International Feature Film award at the 92nd Academy Awards. All four countries are seeking their first Oscar nomination in what was formerly known as the foreign-language film category. Latvia has selected Holocaust drama “The Mover” (pictured) as [...]

  • The Sky Is Pink

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Sky is Pink'

    Shonali Bose’s much-laureled 2014 “Margarita with a Straw” was a film whose presentation of a cerebral palsy-afflicted heroine sidestepped all the usual hand-wringing inspirational clichés of disability portrayal, making her story all the more enlightening and affecting. It is particularly disappointing, then, that the director’s followup should approach another tale of genetic infirmity with all [...]

  • Jodie Turner-SmithVariety Studio Comic-Con, Day 1,

    'Queen and Slim' Star Jodie Turner-Smith Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' (EXCLUSIVE)

    After she plays the Bonnie to Daniel Kaluuya’s Clyde in Universal’s romantic thriller “Queen and Slim,” actress Jodie Turner-Smith will join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Turner-Smith will play Karen Greer in the movie. As recently announced, Jamie Bell will also co-star as Robert Ritter, the deputy director of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content