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Review: August Evening

3
August Evening

August Evening may not be on par with the work of Yasujirô Ozu, but the late Japanese master’s influence can be felt in the patient rhythms and thematic preoccupations of Chris Eska’s film about an undocumented Mexican farmhand in San Antonio, Texas named Jaime (Pedro Castaneda) who, along with his widowed daughter-in-law Lupe (Veronica Loren), moves in with his ungrateful biological kids after the sudden death of his wife. Favoring a serene pace and swaying, quivering cinematography that’s in tune with the natural world (the wind, flowing river water) as well as his up-and-down protagonists, Eska chronicles Jaime and Lupe’s struggles with consideration for the burdensome toll loneliness, bitterness and regret can have on attempts to navigate present troubles and future hopes. Like wet clothes on a cold body, melancholic remorse clings tightly to these two characters, with Eska stressing their sadness through a spare, despondent piano score that—during the director’s frequent, music-dominant poetic sequences and cutaways to the environment—can be a tad insistent but nonetheless conveys Jaime and Lupe’s hardscrabble condition. Generational tensions are manifest in Jaime’s fractured relationship with his living children, whose self-interest takes priority over familial loyalty, a push-pull between eras that’s associated with Jaime and Lupe’s shared heartache for an unrecoverable past. August Evening doesn’t unduly stress those sentiments, and though its narrative structure at times wants for slightly more concision and its lyrical proclivities can sometimes press up against affectation, its overarching naturalism is compelling. In moments where tumultuous thoughts and feelings hang heavy in the silent air, Eska captures both the uneasiness of immigrant (and, more generally, unmoored) life, as well as the hard-won joy of love and renewal. The film earns its climactic bittersweet hopefulness by largely avoiding schmaltz, instead focusing attention on the weathered and weary (albeit also lively) face of Castaneda and, more crucially, on the open, communicative eyes of Loren, which—such as in a scene during which Lupe, after tenderly rebuffing the modest advances of an upstanding suitor, immediately flashes him a look that’s equal parts playful, affectionate and seductive—piercingly express the entirety of the film’s empathetic emotional register.

Cast: Pedro Castaneda, Veronica Loren, Abel Becerra, Walter Perez, Sandra Rios, Cesar Flores Director: Chris Eska Screenwriter: Chris Eska Distributor: Maya Entertainment Group Running Time: 128 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2007 Buy: Video

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