The Cannes Film Festival has faced criticism for a lack of representation of Latin American films in the main competition, and the new film from Amat Escalante, a veteran of the festival and winner of the best director award in 2013 for “Heli,” was expected to fill this gap. However, “Lost in the Night (Perdidos en la noche)” was instead placed in a sidebar, and after viewing the film, it’s easy to understand why. The movie lacks the tight cohesion and reputation that Escalante has built in his previous work, with “Lost in the Night” falling short of expectations.
“Lost in the Night” is a revenge thriller that delves into societal issues such as corruption, class inequality, the exploitation of trauma through art, and the impacts of capitalist enterprises on agricultural communities. The film also explores themes of love, loss, greed, and payback through an amateur sleuthing story. The film centers around Emiliano (Juan Daniel García Treviño), a young man whose mother was one of several protesters who went missing after being pulled over by cops three years earlier. Emiliano becomes convinced that the wealthy family who live in a lakeside home is somehow involved in the disappearances, and he takes a job there as a handyman to investigate.
The script, co-written by Escalante and his brother, Martin Escalante, opens with the camera slinking around the empty lakeside home and the surrounding landscape. While the setting teases an intriguing amateur-detective story, the lack of tension and build-up falls flat. The movie then spends significant time on the family’s internal dynamics, primarily the relationship between the Spanish artist Rigo (Fernando Bonilla), his actress-singer partner Carmen (Bárbara Mori), and her daughter Mónica (Ester Expósito), who makes videos faking her suicide. Eventually, Emiliano’s close proximity to the family brings him closer to the truth, but the drawn-out climax is soft on catharsis, and the story’s efforts to shape a reflection of institutional rot in Mexico lack punch.
The film’s performances are solid, with Treviño carrying most of the film’s weight as Emiliano. His character’s simmering anger and frustration at the lack of answers about his mother’s disappearance effectively carry broader echoes of the countless families in Latin American countries with no closure after the unexplained disappearances of loved ones. The film’s sharp widescreen compositions from DP Adrian Durazo and the disquieting score from Stranger Things composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein maintain an atmospheric charge throughout.
However, “Lost in the Night” proves to be a disappointingly conventional swerve for Escalante. The director, known for his ability to use sadism, sex, and truly strange sci-fi to keep audiences on edge and engaged, falls short in this film. While the movie has plenty on its mind, it lacks the tight cohesion and reputation of Escalante’s previous work. Despite the movie’s engrossing plot and exploration of vital societal issues, “Lost in the Night” falls short of expectations and fails to make a mark at Cannes.