Too Late to Die Young

 

starstarstarhalf

 


There’a a touch of autobiography in this portrait of growing up in Chile.

 
Too Late to Die Young
   

The Chilean writer/director Dominga Sotomayor here gives us her third feature, a work which is in line with her first offering, 2012’s Thursday Till Sunday, in being minimalist by nature. However, the film which it most brought to my mind was a more recent one, Carla Simón’s Spanish piece Summer 1993. In each case, the direction is deliberately unshowy as it encourages the viewer to enter the world of its central character, a young female. The difference is that Too Late to Die Young takes place during the Christmas period and, even more significantly, the girl at the centre is not six years old but all of sixteen, Sofia played by Demian Hernández. Even so, both works adopt a slow pace, feature everyday life rather than promoting a dramatic plot and make much of their settings (here it is a rural settlement near Santiago not dissimilar to a commune). Furthermore, both pieces evoke the last decade of the 20th century since Too Late to Die Young is set in 1990.

 

Sotomayor’s film contains some older characters including Sofia’s father, Roberto (Andrés Aliaga), but the main emphasis is on the youngsters ranging in age from 10-year-old Clara (Magdalena Tótoro), whose dog goes missing, to a young man named Ignacio (Matías Oviedo), a biker. The latter being more experienced attracts Sofia to the dismay of Lucas (Antar Machado) who, the same age as Sofia, dotes on her. Plot as such may be in short supply but emotional upheaval is not. In addition to the romantic rivalry and the quest for Clara’s beloved dog, we have Sofia convincing herself that she will have the chance to leave her taciturn father and join her mother who has deserted them. In fact, Sofia will meet with disillusionment twice over and even nature becomes an enemy when the settlement is threatened after a fire breaks out on a nearby hill.

 

The choice of 1990 as the date for all this is far from being arbitrary. Comments by Sotomayor, who herself grew up in an environmental community, indicate that the disillusionment with adult life that overtakes the youngsters here is intended as a reflection of unfulfilled hopes in Chile following the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. But I suspect that you have to be a Chilean for that to register fully. It is as a study of adolescence that this excellently acted study is meaningful to us due to it having been so accurately caught. Even so, the minimalism adopted comes at a cost since at 110 minutes the film seems seriously overextended. One reason for that is that, although the main characters are clear, there are a large number of subsidiary figures not all of whom are clearly identified. Certain aspects of Too Late to Die Young readily seem to justify claims that this is Sotomayor’s strongest piece to date, but other elements satisfy less. Allow for that and there is much here to make the film well worth seeing.

 

Original title: Tarde para morir joven.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Demian Hernández, Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro, Matías Oviedo, Andrés Aliaga, Antonia Zegers, Mercedes Mujica, Gabriel Cañas, Alejandro Goic, Eyal Meyer, Cecilia Rainero, Michael Silva.

 

Dir Dominga Sotomayor, Pro Rodrigo Teixeira and Dominga Sotomayor, Screenplay Dominga Sotomayor, Ph Inti Briones, Art Dir Estefanía Larrain, Ed Catalina Marin, Music Fernando Holgado, Dario Segui, Andrea Paula Di and Napoli Vita, Costumes Estafanía Larrain and Felipe Criado.

 

RT Features/Ruda Cine/Circe Films/Primate Lab-Day for Night.
110 mins. Chile/Brazil/Argentina/The Netherlands/Qatar/USA. 2018. Rel: 24 May 2019. Cert. 15.