Una Noche: movie review

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Una Noche: movie review

Cuba-shot and Spike Lee–presented, this modest indie is authentic to its time and place: post-Fidel Havana, a gray-skied tropical dump cluttered with hookers, aimless youth and stray dogs. There’s potential in the simple story: Restless post-teens Raul (Dariel Arrechaga) and Elio (Javier Núñez Florián), having become fed up with oppression and poverty, decide to gather the goods necessary for the illegal crossing to Florida. But the film suffers from too many earnest amateur-night decisions: sodden YA dialogue, redundant exposition, prevalent yet dipensible narration by one boy’s insecure but hot twin sister (De la Rúa de la Torre), flat staging, try-anything camerawork and haphazard storytelling (a trannie, a Santeria witch and a white tourist family are thrown in, because why not?).

Documentarian Anailín Lucy Mulloy’s eye for the decaying textures of modern Cuba on the ground is sharp, and there are passages—as the dull characters mope and kill time and work up snits—in which you wish the movie were simply nonfiction. As it is, everything feels fake except the Centro Habana barrios themselves.

By: Michael Atkinson


Release details

Rated: N/R
Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Lucy Mulloy
Cast: Dariel Arrechaga
Javier Núñez Florián
Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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As with the other reviewers on this site, I found Atkinson's review for Time Out startling. He seems to lack the capacity to reflect on the aspects of filmmaking which convey the story, spur the feelings and create the experience that films evoke. Una Noche is an unusually penetrating film. It is an emotionally stirring and visually brilliant portrayal of three young Cubans. Their lives, the quality of life in Cuba, and their harrowing escape on a homemade raft aimed toward Miami was conveyed with no sense of separation between the characters and the audience. Una Noche takes you to Cuba through the characters in a way that you could never experience as a tourist. This film draws the viewer in so strongly that you literally feel the characters' desperation, their invention, their longing, their resourcefulness, their physicality, their sensuality, their tenderness, their violence and their sense of responsibility. This sense of responsibility seems to course so deeply, it distinguishes Una Noche's trio of young people from others we generally see in the movies.


This review is flat, superficial, and incomplete. I saw this movie at its Tribeca Film Festival screening and was simply blown away by the authenticity of the narrative and the acute vibrancy of its characters. As a Cuban, I felt that this was only one of a VERY small handful of movies about Cuba that have honestly portrayed a slice of Cuban reality. Please ignore this review, I could not recommend this movie more strongly....as would the various film festivals that recognized it with awards (Tribeca, Berlin, etc).

Y. Lee

"Mope and kill time" .... Obviously the urgency and desperation these characters and their story display was completely lost on Mr. Atkinson. How can you say that building a raft to attempt to leave Cuba for a better life be called "killing time"?! Attempting this feat in and of itself is a courageous and insane act and if Mr. Atkinson did not see or understand the stories that led these three kids to it, then I don't think we watched the same movie. Perhaps he was just too distracted by Lila's hotness.


This review is nonsensical, hateful, and borderline racist. I just spent several weeks both in Havana and throughout the island and have visited before. Whether you're capable of understanding the film or not, it is a deadly accurate portrayal of the lives of these kids - how they speak, what they do, how they get it done. Not sure how Mr. Atkinson can recognize the authenticity of the "gray-skied tropical dump" they live in then categorize the life or death decisions these kids are forced to make in the pressure cooker as "snits" filled with "sodden YA dialogue". I think the reviewer might be more comfortable covering the kind of suburban, trumped up, adolescent angst of The Spectacular Now, Like Crazy, or maybe the Twilight Saga. Unfortunately, some of us have real problems.

Mario Vergel

This movie is great. I highly recommend it to anyone who lives in a country where freedom is a right. I encourage Mr. Atkinson to visit Cuba and step out of the hotel/resorts full of foreign tourists and experience it as a resident. . Maybe then he will be better equipped to comment on a subject he clearly knows very little about. As a Cuban who recently visited, i think this film is not only authentic but accurately portrays the emotional consequences of living with no freedom. The only thing Mr. Atkinson should be reviewing are his utility bills.

Carmen Pelaez

'Post Fidel Havana'? ummm...he's still very much there. This review is RIDIC. I am Cuban-I go to Cuba this movie IS Cuba. This reviewer obviously has a chip on his shoulder about Spike Lee and NO CLUE about Cuba. NOTHING about this movie is fake. Horrible review of a great movie.