It’s a mark of how viscerally Bustamante pulls us into his remote jungle world that, when a paved road (…) appears (…) the image seems so alien that it takes a moment to process it. By that point, the film has already steeped us in the daily routines of a community of Kaqchikel-speaking coffee harvesters who live at the foot of a vast volcano. Beans are harvested (…) and a young woman in ceremonial headdress is brought to the ashen hillside to receive a marital blessing.
The volcano, though, isn’t the only thing that’s smoldering here; so, too, does passion burn in the loins of the teenage Maria, whose hand has been promised to Ignacio, the coffee plantation foreman. But Maria’s own heart beats more excitedly for Pepe (…) who dreams of starting a new life in the U.S. (…). These scenes and most of what follows (…) play out in static, color-saturated, deep-focus compositions (…) always rooted in Bustamante’s fundamental desire to let his subjects express themselves in their own terms.
What emerges, finally, is a film that gives an urgent, original voice to a people too frequently marginalized in both movies and society at large.
Scott Foundas, Variety