From tales of getting away to a story about staying put, these five Latin American movies make for perfect holiday weekend viewing – whatever your plans. (All currently available on Netflix U.S.)
Semana Santa (2015)
Though at times somber and introspective, Semana Santa, the debut feature from Mexican director Alejandra Márquez Abella, contains enough humor and hopeful notes to keep viewers on board with its depiction of a young couple doing their best to become a family. Chávez (Tenoch Huerta) has scratched together enough money to take Dali (Anajosé Aldrete Echevarria) and her son Pepe (Esteban Ávila) to the beach for the Easter holiday. While there, Dali’s self-destructive behavior and Chávez’s financial (and other) insecurities hint at tragedies past and trials to come. All three characters struggle against the temptation of forces that would pull them apart – Márquez’s straightforward style and unhurried pace succeed in making their efforts feel sincere.
Elvira, te daría mi vida pero la estoy usando (2014)
The third feature from writer-director Manolo Caro plays with some old tropes in exciting ways. Elvira (Cecilia Suárez) wakes up to find her husband, Gustavo (Carlos Bardem), hasn’t come home from a late-night trip to the pharmacy for cigarettes. She responds with disbelief, denial and, eventually, an ill-fated determination to track Gustavo down at a beachside resort. In the meantime, forced to fend for herself, Elvira takes a job as a “professional mourner” at a local funeral parlor; like much of Caro’s work, the film is darkly humorous in a way that makes cringe-worthy confrontations between characters easier – even satisfying – to watch.
Set in the coastal city of Recife, in northeast Brazil, Aquarius stars Sonia Braga as Clara, an aging music critic and the last holdout in an apartment building targeted by a developer to be turned into something more profitable. Clara resolutely refuses to leave and embarks on a mission to spurn the developer’s efforts and hold on to her home. Braga is one of Brazil’s most prolific actresses, and here turns in a moving performance as a woman at risk of being separated from the memories and identity she holds dear. Written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho.
Dólares de arena (2015)
Walking along the beach and dancing bachata, Anne (Geraldine Chaplin) and Noelí (Yanet Mojica) appear more friends than lovers – but the truth is more complicated. Dólares de Arena, the 2014 film by husband-and-wife directing team Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán, dives into the world of sex tourism in the Dominican Republic with a fresh and genuine depiction of the relationship between two women – a young local and a much older French tourist. However, the relationship is not as clear cut as client-escort and when the intentions and emotions of both parties muddy the waters, one is left with a life-changing decision. Read more in AQ’s review.
Y tu mamá también (2001)
This now classic road trip movie is both a coming-of-age tale and an unfiltered look at the geographic and socio-economic divisions of modern Mexico. Co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), the film stars Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal as two teenagers on a holiday drive through Mexico with an older, female companion from Spain played by Maribel Verdú. The climax of the film comes as the three stop for the night in a small beach town – where a night of dancing, conversation and liquor-induced honesty challenges the young men’s adolescent notions of love and friendship.