Written by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu & Nicolás Giacobone
Starring: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Griselda Siciliani, Ximena Lamadrid, Iker Sanchez
While making our hairs go gray and our bodies grow frail, aging provides the opportunity to look back on what we have accomplished in life and look upon regrets and the best memories we can piece together. This journey can set things straight and possibly teach you how to move forward with what remains of your time on Earth. This, among many other sobering and heartfelt themes, make Bardo an unforgettable feature that allows for its messiness to be forgiven because, after all, we are all messy creatures.
Famed Mexican documentation Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is in line to receive a prestigious award from an American journalism organization, which is a first for a Latin American. As he prepares for the day, he reckons with the loss and regret he has experienced through life as it seems everyone and everything is coalescing to this gargantuan moment in his existence.
It goes without saying after seeing my reviews of his other films that I am an unashamed Alejandro G. Iñárritu fanboy. A director who has become divisive because of his filmmaking tactics and how he crafts stories. Despite all of the issues and pejoratives that come his way, he remains a singular director who does things in his own way and crafts features that dazzle me but with Bardo he may have just outdone himself in the way he takes a look back at his own life and puts together a surrealist representation of his deepest insecurities, wishes, and fears. The subtitle of the feature rings incredibly true with the final product. “False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” very much summarizes what occurs in this film and it becomes an unforgettable experience.
Iñárritu battles with so many different themes and ideas throughout this film but the most impactful thread that sticks out amongst the rest lies in identity and it resonates with those that find themselves in a similar boat. Silverio, born in Mexico, moved his family over to Los Angeles to provide a life he saw as better but then decided to then move back because absence from your home country creates an idealization and appreciation that did not exist before. This becomes prevalent in his conversation with his son Lorenzo (Iker Sanchez). A melancholic discussion about the values of Mexico and how Silverio shifts in what he details as its beauties while fearing how aspects of it can cause inconvenience to his family. A completely relatable experience for immigrants and individuals who find themselves holding their hearts in more than one nation or culture. When on that divide you can be seen as a traitor or a sellout on both sides, leaving one with nowhere to lean. It causes a splintering with the hope of fitting somewhere and fulfilling our sense of belonging.
Silverio gets found out in his contradictions, which very much details what occurs in several instances throughout the feature. A thread of conversations with important individuals in life that tear open wounds with years of scabbing over them. They lay out the truth of who he is and each discussion opens up something formant for him to explore and revisit. It’s something all the more meaningful because it comes from his loved ones as they all represent an aspect of his life that he wishes to celebrate or perhaps forget. Take the conversation with his former colleague, who views him as a complete fraud for leaving the values of journalism and becoming a hack filmmaker. A harmful and cutting evisceration of everything Silverio has accomplished and it very well may have some truth to it but coming from his former best friend makes it cut even deeper.
The surrealist filmmaking on displays blurs the line between what is real and what’s going through Silverio’s head as he has these pensive thoughts about his life. This allows for there to be incredible sequences like reenactments of historical moments of Mexico or Silverio even having a conversation with Hernán Cortés. It allows Iñárritu to flex his filmmaking muscles as he usually does with all of his features. Some of these sequences are absolutely breathtaking and demonstrate aspects even the biggest detractors of his filmmaking begrudgingly admit stand as his greatest quality. The Cortés scene alone metaphorically and quite literally serves as a fabulous combination of the production design, cinematography, and screenplay of this feature. A head-to-head between two men that challenged the ideas of colonization that’s simply delicious to witness.
This feature carries so much emotion and carries its heart on its sleeve and that shows up with the interspersed conversations about a son lost named Mateo. These moments, as they would transpire in the film, serve as the true heartbreak of Silverio’s life. An underpinning that represents the most painful experience he has ever encountered. He can be eviscerated physically or through words by anyone before he would experience what he did with losing his son at such a devastatingly young age. The presence of this child steers its head out, sometimes literally, and haunts this character almost like a ghost crescendoing in a moment that brought me to tears in its beauty. All of the emotions run incredibly deep in this feature and it dictates each facet. It had this impact on me where you have the moments of heartbreaking pain and then the most famous photo of this film being Silverio on the dance floor just enjoying the heck of this singular experience he will have with his family.
Yes, Bardo is messy and contains so many threads but Alejandro G. Iñárritu weaves through them all in such meaningful ways that had me entranced by this film. I’m always in the bag for him as a filmmaker and he fed me well by producing such a breathtakingly epic and surreal emotional experience that I never wanted to end. A naval-gazing journey into the life of someone who has lived life and wants to say something about it. This film took my heart and reinvigorated it with such zeal and truly had everything one could want in a feature and was done so through the impeccable direction of a filmmaking master.