Amat Escalante is the Mexican filmmaker who created the brutal, politically engaged crime drama Heli in 2013, for which he won the Best Director award at Cannes, and the deeply strange 2016 body horror parable The Untamed, awarded in Venice. Now, after a stint on the streaming TV series Narcos: Mexico, he directed and co-wrote this twisted Lynchian melodrama about Mexico’s corruption, cynicism and indifference, and all the secrets and lies that inflate the country’s ruling classes.
Lost in the Night concerns what may be the corpse of a woman buried on the estate of a very wealthy family, and in this respect it is quite similar to Robe of Gems by Natalia López Gallardo, who, like Escalante, worked with Carlos Reygadas. It’s a strange work: episodic, violent and disparate (even though everything is connected) and flavored with a mood of latent erotic discontent, but without the fierce seriousness of his previous films. Escalante may have originally intended this as a streaming TV series, and it might have worked better that way.
Emiliano (Juan Daniel García Treviño) is a teenager whose activist mother was “disappeared” by the police for campaigning against a local mining company; he comes to believe that his mother’s body was buried or hidden in a water tank, in the grounds of an elegant modernist villa owned by wealthy television star Carmen (Bárbara Mori), his Instagram princess daughter Mónica (Ester Expósito) and her new partner, a fashionable conceptual artist Rigoberto (Fernando Bonilla), who enjoys goading a religious sect that lives nearby. Emiliano gets a job as a handyman and, while investigating possible grave sites, becomes involved in the tortured sexual dysfunction of the house.
Emiliano’s relationship with his mother, his horrible fate, the issue of the toxic and environmentally disastrous mine, and all those who are complicit in his murder and, therefore, the destruction of Mexico’s environment and of its communities… all this is initially presented to us. as important and the public is indeed encouraged to invest in their significance. But in the end, Emiliano’s mother seems forgotten and the film seems fragile and even a little casual. Yet Escalante’s narrative vigor and approach with unsettling imagery keeps this film’s tension high.