Film Review: La Région Salvaje | The Untamed (2016)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 100 min. | Director: Amat Escalante | Year: 2016.

What an extraordinary and bizarre film. I love it! The trailer is crazy ominous and suspenseful, which I loved. I just had to watch this film. The film made me feel so engaged and involved. My curiosity rose to its absolute maximum and I was sitting on the edge of my chair. Anxiously excited, open-mouthed watching the film as I was baffled by the unexpected turns that this narrative coursed through.

La Région Salvaje (The Untamed) tells the story of a variety of characters. We first meet Verónica (Simone Bucio), a mysterious young woman who lives in a cabin with a scientist and his wife on a forested, mountainous, hilly Mexican landscape. A mysterious creature lives with them in the cabin, who has desires that need satisfaction. Verónica sets out to find a replacement for herself and she encounters Fabián (Eden Villavicencio) and through him she meets his sister Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) who has two children and appears to be in a troubled marriage with her husband Ángel (Jesus Meza). Through Verónica they get in touch with the mysterious creature in the cabin and they discover their deepest desires and their purest moments. On the other hand this new situation confronts them with consequences that turn their world upside down, because even though the creature represents ultimate pleasure, it also is a source of self-destruction.

La Région Salvaje was directed by Amat Escalante who won the prize of the best director at the Cannes film festival with the film Heli (2013). He wrote the script himself together with Gibrán Portela. The film is very unpredictable and you really do not know where it is going. This causes a tremendous feeling of excitement and curiosity. The setting was very compelling as we are introduced to a chauvinistic Mexican society and an otherworldly science fiction situation. I have never seen that before, kudos for that. Thematically it deals with a lot of issues, but in a very well balanced way; Erotica, infidelity, homo sexuality, marriage, family, science fiction, social drama and horror. The only thing that wasn’t met in my opinion was the fact that there is this particular creature, which was marvelously presented in this film. But it felt the whole time that it would be about this creature’s background as well, but in the end it was more about the people the events in their lives and the creature was a part of that. It made me think that they had to do something for the creature. Like helping him out for instance, which they did, but not in the way that I started to assume. I am not saying that is a bad thing. It’s good to lead us on a bit, but I would have liked to see more about this creature. The film stars Simone Bucio, Fernando Corona, Jesús Meza, Ruth Ramos, Eden Villavicencio and Kenny Johnston.

The acting in the film was on point. Simone Bucio as Verónica is so mysteriously quiet and the sadness could be read from her face, but also her desire to be back with the creature. Nothing will be better than being with the creature. Ruth Ramos as Alejandra was poised and vulnerable. Her acting as a mother of two in an unhappy marriage gave no moment of doubt, because it was very believable. The same counts for her husband played by Jesús Meza who has a secret affair with the brother of his wife played by Eden Villavicencio. It felt like these realistic situations where a closeted and married man secretly has the time of his life with a guy whom he shuns throughout the day and loves at night when nobody sees them.

The camerawork is amazing. It urges you to scan and analyze the screen, hoping to find clues and hints or something scary that might pop out of nowhere. The shots show beautiful and mysterious landscapes, graced with rays of sunlight –even solar flares- or covered with a thick sinister mist. To me, at times it had a very slight Alejandro Jodorowski feel (not trying to compare or generalize). It is not the director’s intention, but solely coming from my own associations that come to my mind when I see such a strangely peculiar stylistic film. I really love the way that the film raises suspense and at the same time it shows an out of this world story. The utilization of hints had a powerful effect, because when I saw this map on one of the walls with the words “Ofu island” I immediately looked it up hoping to find any clues. Up till now I only discovered that it is a Samoan island in the pacific ocean and backwards it spells ‘ufo’, a hint that suits the film.

La Région Salvaje is absolutely amazing. It feels like I ran into a treasure. Who needs a film that’s based on a standardized format when you can be totally surprised? It does have an abrupt ending which can be quite fitting for this film, but as a spectator you could see that as not enough closure for the film. Being left with questions is fun and puzzle-like, but it can also leave you unsatisfied. I assure anybody who wants to see something different that this is the film you should watch. It causes anxiety within you, it is filled with mystery and it tells a story that is very unexpected.

In Dutch theatres as from the 15th of June 2017.

Genre: Drama (thriller) | Language: Spanish | Dutch Distributor: Cinéart Nederland BV.

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