Domingo and the Mist (Domingo y la Niebla)
Screening as part of Cannes’s Un Certain Regard, Costa Rican writer-director Ariel Escalante Meza’s second feature, Domingo and the Mist, follows the titular widower (Carlos Ureña) as he stands his ground against thugs determined to get him to sell his land and make room for a new highway. By day he’s haunted by the distant sounds of construction and gunshots as the bullies gradually gain a foothold in the area, his close friends bearing the brunt of the situation; but by night Domingo is haunted in a more literal sense as the ghost of his wife visits him through the mist.
At its core, Domingo and the Mists is a sombre portrait of a man struggling to keep hold of a past that lies heavy on his consciousness. Meza conveys this character piece with delicate cinematography that creates an intimate window into Domingo’s experience. Likewise, a narrow aspect ratio gives the sense of a self-contained world that only exists within the boundaries of the frame. The filmmaker allows these carefully crafted shots to linger, making room for the atmosphere to gradually take hold and transport viewers into Domingo’s world. However, it’s the nuanced performances from Ureña and the rest of the cast that carry the bulk of the script with confidence.
When the mist rolls in, the scene is enveloped in a ghostly veil and the tone shifts to something that’s partly supernatural and ethereal. This is where the film’s visuals are at their finest, Meza making excellent use of light and sound to establish a tone distinct from the rest of her production (though whether there is a spirt there or not is left somewhat ambiguous, since only Domingo is able to communicate with it). Aesthetically, these scenes are exquisite and make for a unique interpretation of what a ghost can mean. However, not much is done to make the overarching plot line as compelling.
Like the swirling mist, the pacing glides along at a steady pace, drifting in one place before progressing to the next. Also like the mist, there’s no solidity to the plot. Despite Domingo’s precarious situation, there are no real stakes or any urgency to events as they become more pressing. A jolt of energy kickstarts a sudden final act, but the tension dissipates almost as quickly as it appeared, leaving audiences with an ending that will have them groaning in boredom and frustration.
Domingo and the Mist (Domingo y la Niebla) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.