May 25, 2020  (Web Review)

Our Time

Monument Releasing, 177 min., not rated, VOD: $4.99 , Sept. 23 (avail. on most digital platforms)

Reviewer rating: 1.5/4

A dreary soap opera dressed up with arty cinematography that is often superficially bold and self-conscious, Our Time is an endurance test at three hours. Mexican writer-director Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light) turns a simple story of marital breakdown into a baffling labyrinth of peripheral details and characters. Those extraneous elements (ranching activity; a long opening scene of children playing in a muddy pond) largely give the filmmaker an excuse to thrust his camera in the middle of action scenes (there is a shocking moment when a bull attacks a wooden wagon carrying cinematographer Diego Garcia), but are otherwise meaningless. Reygadas himself plays Juan, a rancher and world-famous poet who enjoys an open relationship with his wife, Esther (Natalia Lopez, Reygadas’ real-life spouse). When Esther has a brief affair with an American visitor, Juan is offended by her secretiveness and dishonesty about it—a first breach of their arrangement. Juan loses his customary optimism and sense of control, becoming a hectoring jerk; he drives Esther mad and makes it harder for her to process what has happened. It’s not a surprise that she feels overwhelmed by her life as a rancher, wife and mother, with little that underscores her sense of self. It’s also not a revelation that this narrative is ordinary and earthbound, a strange contrast to Reygadas’ flights of stunningly lyrical visuals that, if beautiful, amount to empty gestures. Not recommended. (T. Keogh)