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Daniel & Ana (DVD Review)

12 Sep, 2010 By: Billy Gil

Prebook 9/14/10; Street 10/12/10
Box Office $0.002 million
$24.99 DVD
Not rated.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Darío Yazbek Bernal, Marimar Vega.

This deeply unsettling film details the aftermath of a brother and sister’s kidnapping and sexual assault in Mexico City.

Teenage Daniel (shaggy-headed Dario Yazbek Bernal, half-brother of Gael Garcia Bernal) is a fairly typical upper-class teen, begging his parents for a car and joking about sex with his friends. His older sister, Ana (Marimar Vega), is about to get married, but her husband-to-be’s sudden job offer in Spain has her unsure of what to do.

It’s all fairly pedestrian, set up by first-time writer-director Michel Franco to be utterly idyllic and believable. Then the unthinkable happens. Daniel and Ana each are shattered, but the vestiges of their old selves go through the motions at home, as their growingly worried parents wonder why their formerly bright, vivacious children skip school and keep to themselves. The fact that things get so bad yet stay the same on the surface, keeping friends and relatives clueless, save a concerned psychologist, only drives the heartbreak deeper.

Daniel & Ana is difficult to view (warning: the film includes scenes of rape) and at times loses the plot in long shots of inaction, punctuated by strong yet relatively inexperienced actors who can’t always convey their grief without dialogue. But the film seems vital upon its close, as Franco slowly draws up moments between Daniel and Ana and the impossible pain between them. In an essential move for the film, Franco at the credits includes information about sexual videos made from kidnappings in Latin America, an underreported form of rape and exploitation. By turning his lens to a subject in which few would engage, Franco has made a brave film that leaves a hole in you.   

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