LFF 2019 ‘La Llorona’ Review: War Criminal Haunted by the Righteous Dead

An elderly general responsible for horrific atrocities that has secured his families wealth faces trial for his crimes. As it looks likely he will once again escape justice, he and his family become haunted by a sinister crying woman who roams the house at night. Is the sense of collective guilt finally getting to the family, or are the spirits of the dead really returning to claim justice?

La Llorina is a character study and partially a horror film. The ghosts of the past and spectre of the dead haunt the family. It’s about opulence built upon ruins of the past. Suffering seeps through the walls of the house like the constant noise of the protests outside. Moments of humanity between characters are completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the families shared sins. The psychology they’ve crafted to protect themselves facing their actions.

It’s a very subdued film. For the most part a straight faced drama about a dysfunctional family torn apart by denial. The more fantastical sequences in which a mysterious crying woman is heard in the night and characters find themselves thrust into the past to experience the perspective of their father’s victims. These are affecting sequences that shatter the formal approach to the sequences in the house.

It’s also a film about catharsis and how the selfishness of the perpetrators of these tragedies deny survivors any form of release. In a dramatic sequence, the father is wheeled back into his compound past the protesters who pelt them with blood and rocks. It’s a dynamic sequence that makes literal the spiritual turmoil rocking the family.

La Llorona is a frightening ghost story that makes it’s horror incredibly relevant. Stanley Kubrick once suggested that all ghost stories are inherently optimistic as they presuppose the existence of life after death. La Llorona is incredibly optimistic as it suggests the tragic dead may still be able to achieve a measure of justice after their demise and that perhaps the consciences of the cruel oppressors will finally catch up with them and rob them of their peace.

Four Stars

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