It is undeniable that Undertow was made with heart, but its first-time director Javier Fuentes-León has a few issues with articulating his message clearly. Using the idea of a ghost to represent intolerance in small communities is inspired and works for part of the film, but it just isn’t believable enough to hit the viewer as hard as it should. Great care has been taken to establish the family environment in Miguel and Mariela’s household – an illuminated religious painting in their living room hints at the couple’s selective participation in religious living – but Santiago is undercharacterised by comparison. In many ways, one should be grateful that the subject isn’t blown out of proportion by melodramatics, but it is easy to miss the gravity of the conclusion if one hasn’t invested all their emotive response in every scene.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Beloved by much of his community, fisherman Miguel appears to be living the dream with his heavily pregnant wife Mariela. Once alone outside of the house, he lives the other element of his double life, a hidden romance with a painter named Santiago. During a late night rendezvous, Miguel is confused when Mariela fails to notice Santiago’s presence, and he soon learns that his secret lover has drowned at sea. Though he initially believes himself relieved of his guilt, repeated visions of Santiago push Miguel to discover his true feelings, and when Santiago’s ghost asks him to find his body and arrange a proper burial, he stops at nothing to fulfil his wishes.