Song Without a Name (Canción sin nombre): An ambling but worthy attempt to depict a mother’s grief and a journalist’s desire for justice
Black-and-white cinematography frames the tale of a pregnancy gone wrong. Comparisons to Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma are a convenient way to mark this film but it is an altogether different work: narratively looser, more aesthetically confined, distressing on its own terms. Boxed in 4:3 aspect ratio rather than sprawling panorama, Song Without a Name is an ambling but worthy attempt to depict a mother’s grief and a journalist’s desire for justice.
1980s Peru is undergoing political malaise and a hyper-inflated economy. On an abstracted Andean backdrop, 20-year-old Georgina (Pamela Mendoza) has her newborn daughter stolen from a purported health clinic. The father, Leo (Lucio Rojas), is apparently attentive to her needs, before becoming obtuse, wayward, led over boundary and border. What emerges is a criminal epidemic, one in which babies are trafficked abroad to wealthy bidders.
Distracted and demotivated politicians turn a blind eye, while their minds contort dubious justifications: aren’t the children better off elsewhere? Big newspaper journalist Pedro (Tommy Párraga), based on director Melina León’s father, gets wind of the story, venturing up the river and into conspiracy.
His incipient romance with an actor near his apartment adds another potential threat. Their tense eyeballing and tentative intimacy is seductively composed through dissonant flirts and awkward two-steps. It’s a little tagged on here but affecting and persuasive in isolation.
Georgina’s halfway house – apparently the only point of reference in a stark, exceptional space – is suggestively contrasted with the urban modernism of the inner city. Literary subtext is markedly included. Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie and Kafka allusions interrupt events, so as to suggest deception and distortion. Composer Pauchi Sasaki’s fitful, droning impressions indicate a lack of reconciliation, applicable both to the narrative and to its crafting.
This first feature from León struggles to segue, deliberately or otherwise, between two distinct narratives. When we transition the focus from Georgina to Pedro, the mother’s heartache sinks from sight. Song Without a Name lacks the bravura and control to make this shift either tolerable or provocative but retains a stylised atmosphere of spirited pessimism, a sense that human vacancies aren’t easily filled.
Song Without a Name (Canción sin nombre) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch three clips trailer from Song without a Name (Canción sin nombre) here: