Argentine filmmaker Lucia Puenzo takes a clever look at her nation's history with this charming but subtly chilling drama about events that never happened, but could have. As with her previous films XXY and The Fish Child, this story explores issues of identity and physicality from a young girl's perspective. And what it reveals about society at large is just as telling, mainly because the story is so intimate and honest.
It's set in 1960 Patagonia, where Eva and Enzo (Natalia Oneiro and Diego Peretti) are moving to the mountains to open a hotel along with their three children: teen Tomas (Alan Daicz), tiny 12-year-old Lilith (Florencia Bado) and youngster Polo. They drive north with German doctor Helmut (Alex Brendemuhl), who becomes the first long-term guest in their lakeside hotel. He also becomes fascinated by Lilith's underdevelopment: she looks like an 8-year-old, and he starts secret treatments to help her look closer to her true age. But his interest in the family continues with Enzo's doll-making hobby and, even more interestingly, the fact that Eva is pregnant with twins.
Early in the film, it becomes clear that Helmut is actually the escaped Nazi Josef Mengele, and that he's continuing his human experiments on this unsuspecting family. But since the story is told through Lilith's eyes, it's difficult to see Helmut as anything but concerned and helpful. Indeed, the entire community seems to be aware that Nazis are hiding all around them, but they don't really care as long as they're productive members of society. So it's Brendemuhl's subtly layered performance that reveals Helmut's darker willingness to break rules to fuel his research. Plus the interest of a local photographer (Elena Roger) who just might be a Nazi hunter in disguise.
Continue reading: Wakolda Review
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