(warning some spoilers)
Una Noche, a powerful new film written and directed by Lucy Mulloy looks beyond romantic Lonely Planet images of Cuba’s white talcum powder sand, quaint colonial buildings’ creeping mosaics of peeling paint and colorful vintage cars to show the restless desperation of young people living in grinding poverty among crumbling infrastructure.
The story centers on fraternal twins, Elio and Lila, played by Dariel Arrechaga and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, and Elio’s friend and co-worker Raul, played by Javier Núñez Florián. Raul and Elio work in the kitchen of a Havana tourist hotel. The juxtaposition of their working conditions to the tourists, skillfully illustrates the respect the tourists receive and their apparent ease of life Raul and Elio want for themselves. From the portrayal of an HIV positive prostitute trying to earn a living off the sex tourism industry, to the bartering of goods around town for a GPS, the film powerfully shows the transactional and ultimately soul crushing nature of life in Havana.
After establishing the characters’ dreams and their youthful assumptions that all of their life disappointments are because of life in Havana, Mulloy steers the movie from being a slice of life tale à la City of God, to a harrowing survival story at sea when Raul convinces Elio to make the dangerous journey across 90 miles of ocean to Miami, where Raul hopes to reunite with his father. As Raul, Elio and Lila (who joins them because she doesn’t want to be separated from her twin brother) push off from a Cuban beach in a makeshift boat of bicycle tires, we root for them on their journey and hope for the best. Mulloy’s skill at engaging us to invest in their safe passage, makes the unpredictable ending all the more heartbreaking.
Una Noche is currently playing in selected cities and can be downloaded on iTunes now.
-M.A ST JOHN (@theReelScoop)