Inarritu’s surrealistic personal work about the crisis of Mexican identity fails to overcome its early sluggishness and narrative inertia despite many moments of visual and technical flourishes, making it his career-worst film.
Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
2022 | Mexico | Drama | 159 min | 2.39:1 | Spanish & English
R21 (Netflix rating) for language throughout, strong sexual content and graphic nudity.
Cast: Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Griselda Siciliani, Iker Sanchez Solano
Plot: Silverio, a renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles, who, after being named the recipient of a prestigious international award, is compelled to return to his native country, unaware that this simple trip will push him to an existential limit.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice); Nom. for Best Cinematography (Oscars)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Identity; Existential Crisis; Homecoming
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
It’s been more than seven years since the one-two punch of Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015) got Alejandro G. Inarritu two consecutive Best Director Oscars. With lots of moolah and creative freedom from Netflix, the Mexican hotshot auteur gives us Bardo, unfortunately, his career-worst film to date.
It is a reality check for Inarritu, whose penchant for indulgent, ‘immersive’ filmmaking that served him well for much of the last decade, is now exposed as a liability.
Despite many moments of visual and technical flourishes, Bardo doesn’t overcome the sluggishness that plagues its first hour—there’s nothing much to latch onto narratively; neither does its main character, Silverio, seem like an innately interesting person to be with.
“We think we’re from several places when in fact we’re from nowhere.”
Modelled loosely after the director himself, Silverio is a journalist-turned-filmmaker suffering from a crisis of identity who returns to Mexico after two decades, as he receives adulation from within and outside his home country.
It won’t be inaccurate to say that Bardo is Inarritu’s 8½ by way of Roy Andersson, Paolo Sorrentino and Terrence Malick, such is his surrealistic attempt to construct a meta-fictive work of ‘realities’—be it filmic, psychological or metaphysical.
Yet it is all too long, dull and self-serving, a carnivalesque mess of a film with plentiful ideas but without a clear sight of how and where to take them further.
It’s about the elusive Mexican identity of course (that much is clear), but how it is mediated by the itinerant, global soul proves to be even more elusive as Inarritu’s oneiric piece slips away from his grasp.