×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Too Late to Die Young’

Dominga Sotomayor captures the moment where childhood shifts into hesitant maturity in this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story.

Director:
Dominga Sotomayor
With:
Demian Hernández, Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro,

1 hour 50 minutes

Back in form after her underwhelming sophomore film “Mar,” Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor returns to an exploration of childhood and its intersection with a particular grown-up world, one where idealism is no protection from inner emotional turmoil. “Too Late to Die Young” springs from the director’s experiences growing up in the alternative ecological community of Peñalolén, yet she’s broadened the perspective by focusing on two teens on the brink of adult awareness, silently examining their confused sensations while nonjudgmentally witnessing the dysfunction around them. While the film is perhaps longer than necessary, and the adult characters could use some fleshing out, this is a satisfying sensorial work, unmistakably grounded in independent South American cinema, and should see a thriving festival life.

Though only her third feature, “Too Late to Die Young” features an opening shot that’s unmistakably Sotomayor: a boy asleep in an old car. Harking back to her debut “Thursday Through Sunday,” the image — its angle, lighting and construction — sets the precise tone of this summer moment and of the families present as the kids are brought to their last day of school for the year. Although close to Santiago, this community, high on a hill beyond the city, is very much off the grid, composed of artists, musicians and performers who’ve chosen to live and farm without benefit of electricity. The year is 1990, just after the fall of Chile’s dictatorship, and while politics are never mentioned, Sotomayor evokes a nation headed in an uncertain transition.

As usual with boys and girls, 16-year-old Sofia (Demian Hernández) has a more precocious maturity than her friend, Lucas (Antar Machado). She lives with her uncommunicative luthier father (Andrés Aliaga) but plans to move in with her musician mother in the city after New Year’s; until then she bides her time smoking and flirting with Ignacio (Matías Oviedo), one of the adults who visits the community from time to time. Though it’s her first acting experience, Hernández superbly captures the cautious looks and hesitant smiles of a young woman who thinks she’s ready to change her virginal state, learning how to use her natural beauty to powerful effect.

Sotomayor lays great store by looks and glances, implying entire emotional states with how and where her protagonist’s gaze lingers. This is equally true for Lucas, a guitarist who frustratingly watches the distance grow between himself and Sofia, yet is unable to win her back now that she’s moved on to another stage of experience. There’s a third character, not far below the level of Sofia and Lucas — the much younger Clara (Magdalena Tótoro), recently moved in with her parents and their big Bernese Mountain dog, Frida. Clara is more of a cypher, but given her age and the fact she’s a recent arrival, it’s not surprising her thoughts are difficult to penetrate. When Frida runs away and then seems to be returned, the film shifts into a deeper level of uncertainty, an acknowledgment that paradise is merely an illusion and childhood a temporary state of grace.

That shift is also ushered in by unsolved encroachments from the outside: a break-in, a water-pipe deliberately blocked, and then an enormous fire that consumes dry summer branches and undergrowth. The flames become a set piece of the film, allowing Sotomayor to envision a physical break with sensory significance. The importance she gives to tactility is noticeable in a number of scenes, from Sofia in a bathtub immersed in rising steam that dances with her cigarette smoke, to later when she bathes in a spring, enjoying a waterfall’s cascade while oblivious to the inferno nearby. Through it all, the pale summer light gives the visuals a washed-out feel, not quite of a time past yet not exactly of the present either.

Film Review: 'Too Late to Die Young'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 2, 2018. Original title: “Tarde para morir joven.” Running time: 110 MIN.

Production: (Chile-Brazil-Argentina-Netherlands-Qatar) A Cinestación, RT Features, Ruda Cine, Circe Films production, in association with Primate Lab. (International sales: Stray Dogs, Paris.) Producers: Rodrigo Teixeira, Dominga Sotomayor. Executive producers: Omar Zúñiga, Sophie Mas, Daniel Pech. Co-producers: Violeta Bava, Rosa Martínez Rivero, Stienette Bosklopper, Lisette Kelder, Inti Briones.

Crew: Director, writer: Dominga Sotomayor. Camera (color): Inti Briones. Editor: Catalina Marín.

With: Demian Hernández, Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro,Matías Oviedo, Andrés Aliaga, Antonia Zegers, Alejandro Goic, Mercedes Mujica, Eyal Meyer, Gabriel Cañas, Michael Silva. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content