Fever Dream / Distancia de rescate (dir. Claudia Llosa, 2021) – Amanda lies in pain as she is questioned about what had happened to her – by a young child who is not her own.
Amanda (María Valverde) keeps her daughter Nina at a safe rescue distance, protective of her only child. Carola (Dolores Fonzi) doesn’t share the same love for hers, whom she had almost lost to poisoned water once. Not anymore. Her boy David had only survived because of a spirtual healer, but at the cost of part of his soul, or so she claims.
Before its filmic adaptation, Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream was once a book that begs to be read. Unlike a standard narrative, the story unfolds in nothing beyond a seamless conversation between a woman and a boy, who bear no direct relations as one might think. What ties them together is their bonds with their families that were similarly severed by circumstance.
When translated to screen, the film suffers the absence of Schweblin’s beautiful prose, the essence of what made the pages so captivating and heartbreaking. The story loses its necessary ambiguity due to the nature of show over tell on film, but still comes close to evoking the same ominous dread that comes with David’s pressing interrogation, as though Amanda’s elusive answers may hold the key to their prison of haunting memories.
Had she been ill too, like he was? David asks Amanda. Where then, is Nina? Drawn into the nightmare that the boy implies, we feel every bit of helplessness in the young mother’s unanswered pleas for her missing child. Beyond the supernatural, the mystery also builds grounded tension beyond the boy’s unnnatural demeanour and on his unexplained anxiety, making every second of Amanda’s hesitation a cause for unease.
It is never clear whether the truth she tells has been clouded by her illness. Like its title implies, the film weaves between the real and the imagined like a confused fever dream. As a result, the segments indefensibly feel disjointed and no doubt alienates those looking to make sense of every frame. Yet crafted with intent, each moment is made more to be experienced than dissected, perhaps better done on page than film.
While lacking in its source material’s lingering emotional impact, Fever Dream remains a captivatingly surreal film made to be experienced.
Fever Dream is on Netflix.