Sundance Review: LA LLORONA - A Slow Burn But A Great Fire

No, not that other one.

Why did I fall in love with La Llorona? It’s not a film where much happens. The characters are not likable. Its mild supernatural element forces it into a horror categorization that will eventually piss people off. It’s slow and quiet right up to its muted conclusion. And yet I loved every minute. 

I will say it has an all-time great set up. An aged dictator goes on trial for a genocide he conducted decades before. He is found guilty but the ruling is overturned. This inspires a diligent round the clock peaceful protest that essentially imprisons him, his wife, his daughter, and his granddaughter in their estate. A strange new housekeeper arrives to help them out and things go from there. 

This isn’t a film that gets by on plot or incident. We instead observe these characters as the situation subtly unravels them, aided somewhat by a mild supernatural actor. The dictator’s family slowly come around to the truths about the man, truths they likely already knew but denied anyway. Revelations do not lead to action but rather serve to heighten our observation of these characters. 

Part of my fascination must stem from General Enrique himself. Old and sick, there is something terrifying in this old man. There is a severity to him you can see a mile away. An air of evil surrounds him, even though at times he seems like a regular ailing old man. He’s literally still dangerous as hauntings and night terrors have him running to his guns in the middle of the night. But he’s also on the other side of his greatest crimes, somewhat resigned to stillness. As such, he doesn’t do or say much and haunts the film more than participates it. 

We focus instead on his family as they come to terms with the crimes they ignored to better enjoy the life they provided. They are villains too in their way, but each of the three generations less so than the one before, offering shades of grey even among monsters.

The film is called La Llorona, so of course tenets of the folktale come into play. But this is not a horror film, and those chills are not a good reason to see the film, which will be hitting Shudder at some point, a partnership that might give people the wrong idea of what’s waiting for them. La Llorona is a slow burn leading to events that are more emotional than explosive. But it also offers a great example of when going slow and quiet is a very good thing indeed.