The first female filmmaker to win the Leopard Award in the Locarno Film Festival’s 71-year history, Dominga Sotomayor creates a subtly impactful coming-of-age drama in Too Late to Die Young. Based on her adolescence in 1990 Chile, Sotomayor tells a story of family, loss and transition through the poignant lens of 16-year-old Sofía (Demian Hernandez). (BKP: 4/5)
Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky
The time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a special kind of hiatus; one where you’re unsure what day it is, how many Peanut Butter Blossoms you’ve consumed or which new pair of slipper socks under the tree is yours. For better or worse, it’s a week full of family togetherness – or in my case it means gathering around the television and letting Diners, Drive-ins and Dives relieve the burden of small talk.
Director Dominga Sotomayor makes me want to spend that week in South America, instead. Set in 1990, in an off-the-grid mountain near the Andes, Too Late to Die Young follows Sofia and her family as they live in a community of artists (newly freed from dictatorship). Politics, however, are far from Sofia’s mind as she tries to endure the growing pains of being a 16-year-old girl. Enduring is Sotomayor’s theme, it appears: Enduring change, fear, family, first loves and the unkindness of nature.
With muted tones and slower pacing, it is not surprising that Too Late to Die Young comes from the producers of Call Me By Your Name. For audiences familiar with the film that launched Timothee Chalamet into the hearthrob stratosphere, the Italy-set love story has the visceral feeling of a Monet painting come to life. Although set in Chile, this film evokes a similar emotion.
The cinematography captures Sofia’s world beautifully, the way summers can embed their way into our minds forever. Horses graze in the grass. Families joyfully sit around a picnic table before a meal. String lights hang from tree branch to tree branch. The stillness of the camera allows the viewer to experience these peoples’ surroundings, a peacefulness that welcomes you in and makes you want to stay … for a while, at least.
Juxtaposed to the safe and quiet community is a political undertone of change, a country reeling with class and generational differences. For people (like me) who have little to no education on Chile in the late 1980s, this personal story of a young girl gives you a glimpse into a bigger picture. Sotomayor wanted to “capture the wisdom of children and the foolishness of adults,” she said in an interview. With the added benefit of Demian Hernandez’s performance, she did just that.
© Brigid Presecky (6/3/19) FF2 Media
Photos: Demian Hernández in Too Late to Die Young
Q: Does Too Late to Die Young pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?