Jayro Bustamante’s debut Ixcanul put Guatemalan cinema on the map; his follow-up, a rumbling, forceful gay drama, ought to keep it there.
Premiering in Berlin’s Panorama strand, Tremors is a weighty, promise-fulfilling follow-up to a dream debut. It’s four years since Bustamante’s radiant folkloric fable Ixcanul played in the same fest’s main competition, winning the Alfred Bauer Prize, securing extensive global distribution and becoming only the second Guatemalan Oscar submission in history, 21 years after the country’s first. (Tremors, meanwhile, looks on course to be the third.)
A bravura opening sequence, lashed with rain and seasick with back-of-head tracking shots, immerses us rivetingly into crisis mode, as Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) returns to a household in hysterical disarray, his extended family weeping, wailing and slamming doors at a pitch that might register as “a bit much” even on the telenovela scale. Has someone died? No, something far worse, at least as far as everyone but Pablo and his two bewildered young children are concerned: he’s been outed as gay. That isn’t revealed in so many words, as his God-fearing parents and wife Isa (Diane Bathen) can’t even say the truth out loud through their tears. But it becomes increasingly plain as the conflict escalates, per the title, to literally ground-shaking levels — when a sudden, slight earthquake amplifies the chaos.
Guy Lodge, Variety