NEW YORK TIMES REVIEWS MEDEAS

The New York Times

16 Jan NEW YORK TIMES REVIEWS MEDEAS

A Family of Few Words in a Slow-Burn Disaster

Andrea Pallaoro’s ‘Medeas,’ About an Unraveling Family

NYT Critics’ Pick

 

Catalina Sandino Moreno as a mother of five in “Medeas,” directed by Andrea Pallaoro. Credit: Chayse Irvin/Vladar Company

 

A slow, mesmeric slide into heartbreak and horror, “Medeas,” the ravishing first feature from the Italian director Andrea Pallaoro, effortlessly conveys a family’s disintegration with few words and even fewer miscalculations.

Almost from the outset, we can sense the coming storm as Ennis (Brian F. O’Byrne), a stern dairy farmer plagued by debt and drought, relaxes at a bucolic lake with his wife, Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and their five children. Gradually we learn that Christina is deaf, the children’s playful signing with her in stark contrast to their almost flinching obedience to their father.

Capturing the poetry of bodies at rest and a landscape frozen in time (filming was done primarily in the Santa Clarita area of California), Chayse Irvin’s exquisite 35-millimeter photography is dreamy and sometimes devastating. In his hands, the vulnerability of a baby’s fist and the weary tilt of a sunburned neck are as rich as any monologue.