Director: Ricardo de Montreuil
Screenwriters: Oscar Orlando Torres, Angel Ibarguren, Juan Luis Nugent
Producers: Diego Ojeda
Cast: Elsa Pataky, Jason Day, Enrique Murciano
SONY HD Cam
Spain/Peru, 2007, 100 min.
*Road movie, love story, and spiritual odyssey: Ricardo de Montreuil's richly atmospheric Máncora is that rare film so sensual that you not only watch it, but you also feel it. From the stunning actors to the lush locations, it washes over you like a warm ocean wave, transporting you to beautiful Peruvian places as it tells an intoxicating tale of forbidden desire.
To cope with his father’s recent suicide, Santiago decides to escape the harsh Lima winter for the picturesque beach town of Máncora. Upon his departure, he receives an unexpected visit from his beautiful stepsister, Ximena, and her arrogant husband, Inigo. The three take off on a party-fueled road trip, picking up a bohemian hitchhiker along the way before arriving in Máncora. Once in the beach town, they let loose, causing romantic tensions that threaten to tear the group apart.
Máncora is a dazzling second feature by de Montreuil and a remarkable vehicle for his amazing young actors--Elsa Pataky, Jason Day, and Enrique Murciano. They scintillate on screen, nearly combusting against the breathtaking backdrop. The intense, almost-physical force of the film’s visuals creates a truly transforming experience. Indeed the magic of the film’s imagery, music, and location provides a passionate journey into a world rarely seen in film and shows off the immense talents of an exciting new cinematic voice.
*Summary by Trevor Groth, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
While admittedly sharing many plot similarities to Y Tu Mama Tambien, Mancora manages to succeed on its own merit, based mostly on the luminous and sensual performance of the lead woman, Elsa Pataky, playing ‘Ximena.’ It also benefits from gorgeous cinematography, though that is to be expected from a road trip film based on the Peruvian coast. Here’s something I am getting tired of though: the mandatory use of framing voiceover in Spanish/Mexican films. There is a framing v/o in Mancora that uses a quote to better represent the struggles of the lead, Santi, but I really felt it was extraneous and unnecessary. I was fine with the flashback structure of the film, mostly because it led to a fantastic epilogue, and one last lingering close-up of Ximena’s face. Win-win situation there.
The movie begins a bit unevenly, with Santi’s father’s death and the introduction of Ximena and her husband, Inigo. There is a scene where Santi cries against Ximena’s shoulder and it felt abbreviated, as if the scene was originally longer and more intricate. As the road trip begins, the love triangle begins to develop although it does move along completely predictable lines, including Santi and Ximena kissing in the crashing waves of the ocean. While their affair was every bit a film-affair, I can’t express how engaging and wonderful Ximena is. She even manages to surpass her clichéd I’m-an-indie-photographer-sensitive-girl-next-door characterization. The audience is supposed to fall for her and damn, do we fall hard. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same with the main character, Santi. The actor who plays Santi does not do a very good job. He sticks to the same note of sullen indifference and his performance pales in comparison to the actors who play Ximena and Inigo
The actor who plays Inigo, Enrique Murciano, is extremely talented. He is a manipulative, thrill-seeking jerk, but he is also extremely charming. When Ximena tells the story of how they got together, it is very easy to see how she got ensnared in his world. His relationship with Santi is tense, but fascinating to watch. When both go out into the desert to experience some drug-influenced hallucinations, Inigo really faces his demons and seems to come out a different man. However, I was confused when Inigo claims to have known all along that Santi slept with Ximena. This information felt wrong as Inigo never acted like he knew. It twists around all of his interactions before the hallucination scene and I felt it was unnecessary. Santi and Ximena have a nice scene on the beach where they finally examine what each character is searching for. It is refreshing to see them confront their feelings and what each wants out of the other.
Santi’s ending is not very well done. Earlier in the film, he gets into an erotic threesome with two other girls in Mancora, enraging the boyfriend of one of the girls. In the finale, Santi goes to meet Ximena on the docks, hoping to rekindle their relationship and instead gets beaten and dumped in the ocean by that jealous boyfriend. It is unclear whether Santi survives or not as we cut back to how monotonous voiceover.I am a sucker for open endings that kindle hope and promise that the story will continue. We end with Ximena at an exhibition of her photography when a voice behind her calls her name. She turns and the film cuts to black. We don’t know whether it was a mysterious current boyfriend, Santi, or Inigo, and I really like that ambiguity. I kind of wish the film was about Ximena’s journey instead of Santi’s. Her character and Inigo’s strange personality were the truly interesting parts of this film. Mancora is centered on the wrong character and it feels familiar, but the mood, the sumptuous locations, and the acting by the supporting characters is more than enough to recommend this South American road trip.