Affluent university student Ana (Vega) and her teenage brother, Daniel (Bernal), both still live at home, enjoying the kind of pampered lifestyles that require very little self-examination. She’s consumed by her engagement to nice guy Rafa (Torre); Daniel’s most ambitious goal is convincing his parents they should buy him a car. So after the siblings are kidnapped and forced to have sex with each other for an underground pornography ring early in the film, it’s not surprising that they’re reluctant to acknowledge the experience to anyone, even each other. Why disrupt the austere surfaces they inhabit?
It’s a common enough response to such extraordinary trauma, but director Michel Franco takes his cues a bit too well from his characters’ disassociation. The film’s horrifying experience looms over each well-constructed frame without anywhere to go, and the siblings spend lots of time languishing in darkened rooms and failing to keep appointments. (Meanwhile, their parents only halfheartedly inquire into their kids’ apparent malaise.) When a resolution inevitably arrives, it’s a case of too little, too late—the result is nonetheless damningly graphic. There are plenty of difficult films that reward the misery of watching them with profundity and a dramatic payoff. This dour import, alas, is assuredly not one of them.—Lisa Rosman
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