You might love this movie. It's an interesting twist on the love triangle trope and features a lovely pace that draws as much as possible out of its lush, rainy Mexican jungle setting without dwelling on it. But you may also wonder what exactly director Ernesto Contreras and writer Carlos Contreras were after in I Dream in Another Language, a drama turned fantasy.
We're introduced immediately to Evaristo, Isauro and María. The three Mexican teenagers are clearly friends, but there's something intentionally not quite right in the opening vignette. Without it being immediately obvious, we fast forward to the present day, when young linguist Martín (Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, The Incident) shows up in the village where an elderly Evaristo lives. Martín is trying to document and preserve the dying Indigenous language of the Zikril tribe, and Isauro and another woman are the only two people who speak Zikril, as far as Martin knows. He soon learns Evaristo speaks it, too, and it's the beginning of a thread that weaves throughout the movie: What have we chosen to forget and what will it cost us?
Isauro (José Manuel Poncelis, Herod's Law) has been living outside the village, banished by Evaristo. The pair is reunited as Martin and Evaristo's granddaughter, Lluvia (Fátima Molina, El Hotel), work to save a friendship and a language that are rapidly going extinct. As the past comes to be known in the present, the characters deepen and seemingly obvious plot twists almost always give way to something more.
Ultimately, though, this is a fantasy movie that would do better without the fantasy. While it provides a lovely moment in the film, we don't need to know that animals respond preternaturally to Zikril. And the Zikril's afterlife concept seems to exist solely to provide a somewhat happy ending. The movie trips over itself in these parts and it's better as a story about life, love, anger and regret.
+ Strong acting by Meléndez; great pace
– Not sure why the fantasy is there
I Dream in Another Language
In Spanish with subtitles
Directed by Ernesto Contreras
Meléndez, Poncelis, Rebeil, Molina
Jean Cocteau Cinema, R, 103 min.