Upon Open Sky (HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2024) - Film Review

Upon Open Sky (HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2024) - Film Review

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Posted 2024-06-11 by Nicholas Gordonfollow

Mon 10 Jun 2024 - Thu 11 Jul 2024


From Mexico comes this thought-provoking tale of morality and retribution. Set in the 1990s, Upon Open Sky follows two teenage brothers and their newly acquainted step-sister on a road trip to the US/Mexico border. Elder brother Fernando (Maximo Hollander) and young Salvador (Theo Goldin) are seeking revenge: they want to find a truck driver responsible for an accident which killed their father. Step-sister Paula (Federica Garcia) is just along for the ride, initially unaware of the journey's true purpose.



Upon Open Sky begins by explaining the source of Fernando and Salvador's anguish. It is 1993 and Salvador is accompanying his father on a hunting trip (Fernando has been excluded because of poor grades at school). The barren tranquillity of the Mexican interior is the backdrop as Salvador and his father tick off the kilometres. They stop for petrol, stop for lunch at a faded roadside restaurant. Carefree and mundane scenes. But that banality is obliterated when a truck ploughs into the car and kills Fernando and Salvador's father.

Salvador survives the accident and two years later is living in Mexico City. His mother has remarried, bringing a new step-father and Paula, who likes watching soap operas and making out with her boyfriend on the couch. 14-year-old Salvador watches her intently, experiencing the first stirrings of sexual interest. Fernando looks upon her, as with everyone else, with marked disdain. He is angry at the world over the loss of his father. And his pain manifests itself in an extreme form: he spends his spare time scouring car yards for the wreck of the vehicle his father died in.

One day he finds the smashed-in car and then the identity of the truck driver involved in the crash. And when his mother and step-father leave on a holiday, Fernando and Salvador set out to find the trucker. A problem emerges when Paula and her boyfriend contrive to join the trip, but Paula's boyfriend doesn't make it far and heads back to Mexico City. Paula eventually learns the true purpose of the journey but remains with her step-brothers and the trio push on towards the frontier town where the truck driver lives.

Directed by siblings Mariana and Santiago Arriaga from a screenplay written by their father (celebrated Mexican scriptwriter writer Guillermo Arriaga), Upon Open Sky is an elegantly told tale which pursues its themes confidently and maturely. The three young leads all give excellent performances, their characters filling out and evolving as the journey progresses and the inevitable showdown with the trucker draws closer.

The film presents well on the screen, the big sparse Mexican wilderness foreboding and interesting to see. The score, with its modern-day Western feel, is also pleasing and adds a sense of tense expectation to many scenes. And while the film's climax is somewhat overwrought, the way the story is packaged and what it says about the grey areas of morality makes Upon Open Sky well worth seeing.

Upon Open Sky is playing nationally as part of the HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2024. Find information on session times, locations and tickets on the festival's official website .

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288224 - 2024-06-10 23:59:08

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