by Rob DiCristino
Minor spoilers ahead.
The Manor (2021, Dir. Axelle Carolyn)
Madres (2021, Dir. Ryan Zaragoza)
Madres opens engagingly enough, with Diana as the outsider hoping to find family in an unfamiliar place. Early scenes highlight her difficulty with Spanish (Scolded by their American teachers for using the language, Diana’s parents refused to pass it on) and the awkwardness of being a stranger in a strange place. Beto, overjoyed to again be among his countrymen, insists they acclimate themselves with the local culture and get to know the tight-knit Mexican community around them. So far, so good: The language barrier compliments the cultural barrier, which both emphasize the gender barriers inherent to any heterosexual pregnancy. Even with the distracting pesticide plot introduced far too late in the game, we expect Madres to proceed in the usual way, with Diana’s attempts to solve a real problem complicated by her status as an interloper. Instead, Madres’ final act drops Diana headfirst into a scientific conspiracy far too complex to explore in the time remaining. It’s a jarring and atonal shift from which the film never recovers.