CamdenNewJournal

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Our Time: Western approaches

15 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Vast vistas are just one reason to enjoy Our Time

OUR TIME
Directed by Carlos Reygadas
Certificate 15
☆☆☆☆

THIS carefully pitched story of love, family, betrayal and a study of ego focuses on the turbulence caused in a marriage where boundaries of fidelity are blurred.

Juan (director Carlos Reygadas) is a poet of some standing, who also helps run a ranch in the wild Mexican countryside with his wife Esther (Natalia López).

Their place is home to an extended family, both relatives and workers. They raise bulls for the ring: Esther takes the lead in managing the place and their three children, while Juan rides about, offers advice and finds poetic inspiration.

Horse worker Phil (Phil Burgers) is driven into Mexico City by Esther one evening after work, and when she doesn’t return till the morning, Juan realises his previous claims that he wouldn’t mind an open marriage are harder to tackle in reality.

Juan claims he wouldn’t mind so much if he hadn’t found out via snooping on his wife’s text messages – but it’s clear he is troubled, and him trying to square his emotions is at the centre of this winding tale.

While not a “Western” as such, it has some of the key attributes of the genre.

Set in a Mexican countryside, it provides a grand backdrop for the extended family and the workers on the ranch. The views are as stunning as anything the American Old West can provide.

Add to this a haunting score, and the creak of saddles, and it sounds terrific – as does the Mexican Spanish, which provides added flavour. The look of the film is wonderful – from the opening scenes of the children and their cousins playing around in a large lake, splatting each other with mud, to the adults drinking rums, beers and tequilas as they relax.

The cowboys are decked out in ponchos and hats, have lassoes, chaps and weathered gloves. The Marlboro Man was once seen as the epitome of Western male status – and that macho vibe is channelled through each character here, too. It makes the idea of how one man reacts when a friend and worker starts an affair with his wife all the more interesting – how does it affect his masculinity? How does he – and how should he – react?

There are no real answers offered, but maybe that is more satisfying than this messy story having a tidy ending. However you react to the characters – this is an indulgent character-driven drama – the scenery, the horses and the overall cinematic style is enough to hold the attention.

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