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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.18.20] Mexico thriller drama dystopic

To say that New Order is a difficult film to watch is an understatement. Mexican writer/director Michel Franco's latest is an impressive, in-your-face, look at a violent revolution.

It begins at a wedding. The immaculate, well appointed house and the people milling in it are clearly wealthy. They're cordial but not kind to the staff, most of whom have obviously been with the family for many years. When Rolando (Eligio Melendez), a former employee, comes to the door in search of urgent help for his ailing wife, the family matriarch and her son turn him away with a few pesetas and a stern reprimand: how dare he interrupt their party with his life-or-death scenario? Clearly things are about to go terribly sour.

Enter Marianne (Naian Gonzalez Norvind). The bride is having none of it and angry at her family's refusal to help, she decides to take matters into her own hands and despite the unrest that seems to be brewing just outside their home, she gets into the car and sets off to help Rolando. What she doesn't realize is that she's avoided one disastrous situation, protesters jump the fence and soon the house and guests are swarmed by armed men-and-women, only to enter another. The poor have revolted and in a violent coup, are travelling through the city's rich neighborhoods and from home-to-home looting, destroying, and violently killing anyone who doesn't follow their demands or, in some cases, simply because they looked the wrong way.

Franco doesn't hold back, he doesn't mince images, and he's certainly not interested in subtlety. His message is clear and in-your-face: the poor are tired of being overlooked, stepped on and abused and when the revolt comes, it's going to be ugly and violent.

New Order embraces the brutality of war with Franco and cinematographer Yves Cape unflinchingly capturing scenes of horrific abuse and violence but there's no reveling or joy in it. There's a realism to the violence and the film's storytelling style combined with the way it moves between characters, Franco's unsentimental approach, and the easy way in which characters are dispensed of, helps keep viewers at arms length and slightly removed from the violence unfolding on screen. What it doesn't do is diminish the effectiveness of Franco's vision, his searing observations, and the damning portrayal of what could quite possibly unfold should we continue to fail to close the gap between the classes.

While New Order is a movie, Franco's cautionary tale is based on all-too-real tensions, the kind that are similarly playing out all over the world. It's not enough to say "that would never happen here" because the reality is, it could happen anywhere.

While not an easy recommendation, New Order is a powerful indictment of the worst parts of humanity and a reminder of what could be. Hopefully we'll never get there.

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Wumpus (2 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the review. This, and Nomadland, are the TIFF films I'll be keeping an eye out for.

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