- James Mottram
- 8 July 2019
Highly personal take on marital discord and jealousy from Mexico's Carlos Reygadas
From Woody Allen to Atom Egoyan, filmmakers have occasionally taken the step of casting themselves opposite their off-screen partners. But the results have rarely been as intriguing as Carlos Reygadas's Our Time. Starring with real-life wife Natalia López – an editor by trade who worked with Reygadas on Silent Light and Post Tenebras Lux – the Mexican director takes a deep dive into marital discord and sexual jealousy over three leisurely hours.
Set on a ranch dedicated to raising fighting bulls, Reygadas plays Juan, a poet who lives with his wife Esther (López), who runs the establishment. Working with them is Phil (Phil Burgers), an American horse-breaker who, it transpires, is having an affair with Esther. Rather than it causing a fissure in their relationship, Juan actually encourages his wife in what appears to be an open marriage. Later, he even prods Esther towards rekindling passions with a former flame.
With Juan alternating between seething jealousy and voyeurism, as he spies on Esther's extramarital lovemaking, it's a twisted set-up. But Reygadas (who, like López, impresses in his acting debut) is not interested in examining uncommon sexual practices. Rather, this is a portrait of psychological despair.
Not all of it works: the characterisation of Phil is weak and Reygadas using his own kids to narrate flops. Some will consider it indulgent and overlong, others will believe the director is simply playing out his own marriage on screen. Whatever the intention, there can be no denying the poetic qualities of the film. From aerial shots of Mexico City as a plane comes in to land, to the sight of bulls rutting in unusually frosty weather, Our Time has a haunting beauty to it, as it confronts us with the painful, searing truth about the quixotic nature of mankind.
Selected release from Fri 12 Jul.