Ariel Escalante Meza’s ‘Domingo And The Mist’

A widower is threatened by property developers in Sunday and the fog, the drama Un Certain Regard from director Ariel Escalante Meza. The Costa Rican film is a slow-burn commentary on corruption shot through with a tinge of magical realism.

We meet Domingo (Carlos Ureña) for the first time as he walks slowly uphill past his neighbor’s house. We follow him walking and overhear the woman conversing with a polite but persistent man who has knocked on his door. She is unwilling to let him into the house; she offers to wait for her son to come home; she finally relents and lets him in. Listening to them, Domingo stops for a moment and pauses thoughtfully. These men are developers and use many tactics to persuade locals to sell their houses to make way for a new road, not all of it legal. Domingo is one of the last to stay, and he doesn’t want to leave. But choosing him can be risky.

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One of the reasons for Domingo’s stubbornness is emotional: this is the house he shared with his wife. He believes that she visits him regularly in the form of mist. This mist is revealed to us visually and becomes a motif in the film, drifting through the threatened green landscape and toward his house, swirling around him as he sleeps.

Sometimes he speaks, poetically, in a feminine voice. It’s a quietly powerful experience that’s both serene and slightly unsettling in its otherworldly nature. There is a feeling that the rebellion against developers is happening in this world as well as in another.

the rhythm of Sunday and the fog feels almost too leisurely at times, but gives enough time for reflection and looks beautiful, credit to cinematographer Nicolás Wong Díaz here.

The performances are subtle but strong: Ureña has a quiet, humble dignity as his character guards his house with his shotgun, worried about the repercussions of refusing to sign. The details of his daily life are simple but vivid, from his walks to buy hard liquor from a man in a shack, to the afternoons he spends drinking it with a couple of friends.

This is not a rosy life – his relationship with his adult daughter seems strained, for example – but it is Domingo’s life, and he has a right to cling to it. That’s one of the messages of this movie, and it’s a message worth repeating.

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