It’s uncommon when a debut characteristic strikes the proper steadiness of elements, and particularly uncommon when it does so in a particular and memorable approach. Author-director Juan Pablo González achieves exactly this in Dos Estaciones. His first narrative movie is directly a vivid portrait of a spot and its individuals, an unsentimental ode to the artwork and craft of tequila-making, a damning depiction of the outcomes of globalizing financial insurance policies, and an beautiful character examine, with Teresa Sánchez delivering a efficiency of potent restraint.
As María García, the steely but magnanimous proprietor of a once-thriving tequila distillery in western Mexico, Sánchez, in her first lead function in a characteristic, is riveting from first scene to final. She’s certainly one of just some skilled actors within the central forged, with lots of the film’s non-pros taking part in variations of themselves. Working primarily in González’s hometown of Atotonilco El Alto, within the highlands of the state of Jalisco, the helmer and his co-writers, Ana Isabel Fernández and Ilana Coleman, invited the actors’ collaboration on the dialogue. That alternative, mixed with the inclusion of unscripted footage, imbues Dos Estaciones with a selected authenticity, one which fuses a documentary sensibility and suave storytelling.
The Backside Line
A superb distillation, intoxicating and sobering.
González’s movie — which acquired the True/False pageant’s True Imaginative and prescient Award in March — is spellbinding and pressing, an on-the-ground account of the repercussions of NAFTA, virtually 30 years after that commerce settlement reworked the North American enterprise terrain. By means of María’s story, he questions the which means of success on an uneven taking part in discipline, and the devastating results of greed and unchecked competitors.
The sense of place is highly effective, whether or not the director takes us into the fields the place the jimadores harvest the agave, or traces the crops’ fermentation course of by means of the distillery’s equipment, or just invitations us to look at the land and the sky. This can be a drama whose consideration to element, in these visuals, within the phrases and silences between characters, within the layers of sound beneath the dialogue or typically in its stead — birdsong and bugs, radio voices and tunes, the plink of on line casino slot machines — restores which means to such overused phrases as “artisanal” and “neighborhood.” And it quietly counters rural stereotypes in its matter-of-fact portrayal of a spectrum of queer identities and their on a regular basis acceptance.
María is an esteemed businesswoman, a boss of exacting tastes and requirements, who has expanded upon the achievements of her father and his father earlier than him to construct a chic distillery (the situation is a facility run by González’s household). The portrait that hangs behind her desk isn’t any standard tribute however a piece that’s hanging in its primitive modernism: a picture of her, together with her close-cropped hair and intense gaze, painted in daring strokes.
María lives alone. Her employees features a housekeeper (Ana Rosa Fuentes Estrada), a “right-hand man” (José Luis Flores) to supervise distillery logistics and an adviser on issues of horticulture (skilled actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). No matter her private longings — and so they do discover expression, indelibly, over the course of the story — motherhood undoubtedly isn’t certainly one of them. “Too many youngsters,” she feedback, with out irony or apology, at a child’s birthday celebration.
It’s there that she meets Rafaela (Rafaela Fuentes), who has moved to the world after being laid off from her job within the administration workplaces of one other tequila manufacturing facility. Struggling to make ends meet, María might use somebody with Rafaela’s know-how, however, within the midst of “a critical agave disaster,” the most effective she will be able to provide the younger lady is partial wage plus room and board. A deal is struck.
The disaster difficult María and different impartial tequila makers is twofold. There’s the pressing matter of a fungus that’s destroying the agave crops, and the continued encroachment of deep-pocketed international manufacturers, pushing household companies to the sidelines of an more and more profitable and celebrity-bedazzled trade.
As María tries to maintain the corporate afloat, her workers are, for some time no less than, understanding and affected person concerning the discount in pay. Transient interactions reveal the years-long bonds: She is aware of everybody by identify, is aware of what’s occurring of their lives and, on payday, she personally palms every of them a verify. What’s additionally revealed is her significance to the native financial system, not solely as an employer but in addition as a benefactor. Amongst these she’s helped is salon proprietor Tatín. Performed by Atotonilco resident Tatín Vera, an overtly transgender hairdresser, Tatín offers a fascinating throughline within the story, emblemizing the neighborhood’s resilience. Her go to to a close-by on line casino together with her mom, the place she meets soft-spoken Fernando (José Galindo), is a mild romantic interlude.
For María, issues of the guts are much less open and easy. Her attraction to Rafaela is obvious within the glances she steals, and the way she delights in displaying her the native sights. Though Rafaela nonetheless calls her “ma’am” within the workplace as they pore over the debt-laden books, there’s an enigmatic intimacy between them. There’s additionally a line that María apparently can’t carry herself to cross.
It’s 40 minutes into the movie that María’s powerful façade breaks, if just for a fleeting immediate: She smiles, actually smiles. Later, a short sequence that finds the 2 girls inadvertently within the kitchen on the identical time is an absolute stunner. At María’s suggestion, they dance to a track on the radio. “I’ll lead,” she says, her confidence and pleasure one thing to behold. When Rafaela asks her the place she discovered her strikes, her reply is breathtaking, a two-word testomony to the power, smarts and aloneness which have outlined her life.
That scene is seen by means of the narrowed body of a doorway, a key instance of the ways in which cinematographer Gerardo Guerra helps to form the narrative. Symmetrical compositions emphasize María’s central place within the city in addition to her separateness. The excellent camerawork is simply as attuned to the otherworldly great thing about the agave cones, the sweep of the panorama and the manufacturing facility’s place in it — at occasions of relative calm and within the aftermath of catastrophe. (The filmmakers captured the fallout of a 2018 storm; many of the narrative sequences have been shot in late 2020, however the strategy of filming started earlier and came about intermittently over a four-year interval).
The considerate, unhurried rhythms of the modifying by Lívia Serpa and the director are important to the film’s hypnotic dramatic language, as is Carmina Escobar’s ethereal rating, which faucets into the wonder at hand and likewise María’s rising rage over her predicament.
María is an unforgettable character, dropped at vivid, mysterious life by Sánchez (The Chambermaid, The place Are Their Tales?), who was awarded a particular jury prize at Sundance. The efficiency is punctuated by outstanding moments when the character’s tightly contained feelings, and her simmering disdain for “fucking Individuals,” rise to the floor. These moments develop longer, extra deliberate, extra harmful. Sánchez and González make this inscrutable pillar of Atotonilco comprehensible, in all her accomplishments and all her contradictions.