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Florida Film Festival: Medeas

One of the many desolate landscapes of Medeas.
One of the many desolate landscapes of Medeas.



I cannot fault Medeas for the skill on display in front of and behind the camera. No doubt a number of critics and art film enthusiasts will absolutely adore this film for its stark imagery, minimalist storytelling and bleak outlook. I am not one of those people. Despite being well made on a technical level, I found it to be intentionally obtuse and insufferably boring.

Ennis (Brian F. O'Byrne) is a cattle rancher in a desolate corner of the Southwest, barely making a living to support his wife Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and their five children. A drought threatens their already meager livelihood; when Ennis brings home an ancient black and white television it is a major event. To further complicate matters, Christina is having an affair with an attendant at what seems to be the only gas station in a hundred mile radius. Ennis, who is emotionally distant and a vaguely threatening presence in the house, suspects her infidelity but does nothing, at least at first.

The film consists mostly of scenes of the family working, playing, or doing the most mundane of everyday activities. There is very little dialogue, partially due to the fact that Christina is deaf. All credit goes to Catalina Sandino Moreno for her performance; it is all looks and body language and is very effective. In fact, all the performances, from O'Byrne as the father to all the children are quite good. O'Byrne conveys a slowly building menace throughout the film and is an imposing physical figure.

To say the film is deliberately paced is an understatement. It is languid to the point of torpor. It is barely over ninety minutes but feels twice as long, mostly because when it comes right down to it, nothing much happens. I'm certain that Andrea Pallaoro, the film's writer and director, made exactly the movie that he wanted to make. It has the feel of a Terrence Malick film minus the existential voice-over narration and empathy.

I don't expect every movie to be entertaining, but I need something to grab onto as I watch. Nothing in this film made me at all invested in any of the characters. I will resist any semblance of spoilers for those who intend to see the film. I saw the end coming from very early on, but not because of any narrative clues or story continuity; I predicted the climax because it was the most obviously shocking plot twist that could occur. It felt like an attempt to elicit strong emotions from the audience, but by the end I just didn't care.

I imagine I might be accused by champions of the film that I "just don't get it," that it's a poignant and stark exploration of the human condition in the face of desperation and ennui, etc. Don't worry, I get it. I just don't like it.

For screening information for this and all the other films at the Florida Film Festival, visit the official website. And check out my other reviews from the festival here.