New Order

Review by Trevor Johnston

Directed by

Michel Franco

Starring

Diego Boneta Fernando Cuautle Naian González Norvind

Anticipation.

Franco’s previous films were small yet harrowing. This is on a much bigger canvas.

Enjoyment.

You’re not here to enjoy yourself, but you can admire the craft.

In Retrospect.

The refusal of hope is offset by a lack of platitudes, making this an antidote to complacency.

Michael Franco’s button-pushing drama sees Mexico’s super-rich get their comeuppance in spectacularly violent fashion.

In this latest exercise in dread from Mexican provocateur Michel Franco, an ultra-swish wedding unfolds behind security gates at a glass-and-steel modern mansion in Mexico City. Soon the unexpected arrival of a much-loved former family retainer pricks the conscience of the bride, who’s been showered with thick envelopes of cash by her guests all day.

The ex-servant needs money to pay for his wife’s heart surgery, and since she was also previously employed at the house, the young lady of the manor resolves to help by taking the dosh to her in person. White saviour syndrome? Extreme virtue signalling? Or a genuine act of kindness? We’re left to ponder her motives, while we question the sense of hitting the roads with the city in the midst of a violent uprising. A portentous opening sequence has already shown us the blood of dead and mutilated bodies mingling with the protesters’ signature green paint in an obvious echo of the Mexican flag. The underclass have had enough. There is trouble ahead.

Franco’s previous films, including 2012’s After Lucia and 2017’s Chronic, have established his critical cred as a purveyor of crisp Haneke-style vignettes about the numbing aftermath of awful trauma, but here the scale is expanded considerably, and the shackles are off. What’s the worst that could happen? You’re looking at it. Social cohesion is ripped apart in a hail of bullets, as the rage of the oppressed turns into bloodshed, rape and looting.

Typical of Franco’s MO, audience identification is kept at arms’ length, while the staging is mounted with clinical precision and distressing believability. And unlike, say, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, he avoids patronising the lower classes by attempting to share their perspective. Fades to a black screen bring moments of transition, and in the process of a wham-bam 86 minutes, we’re taken to a place of truly brutalising bleakness.

Be warned, this is a film which will mightily upset its viewers. No one, but no one, is spared. Certainly, some of the sleek smugly entitled haute bourgeoisie deserve their comeuppance, yet it’s hardly a spoiler to hint that the green revolution does not necessarily bring about a new society founded on fairness and equality. So chilling indeed is the authoritarian New Order emerging from the smouldering ashes, some might read the film as an awful warning against change. Is it cynical nihilism to deliver a cautionary fable to the idealists, suggesting we might be careful what we wish for?

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, an excoriating vision of fascist power run rampant, is certainly a reference point here, yet that played out its horrors in a wartime past, while this film could be happening right here sometime soon. Its blunt-instrument attack might lack a certain subtle nuance, and it’s certainly more of a talking point than a thought-through argument.

Still, this is a jolt and then some, a film which will succeed in riling those on the left and the right. If you believe cinema’s job is to ask the questions rather than offer the answers, then this will usefully challenge you. A dirty fingernail stuck right into the open wound of our unspoken social anxieties.

Published 9 Aug 2021

Tags: Michel Franco New Order

Anticipation.

Franco’s previous films were small yet harrowing. This is on a much bigger canvas.

Enjoyment.

You’re not here to enjoy yourself, but you can admire the craft.

In Retrospect.

The refusal of hope is offset by a lack of platitudes, making this an antidote to complacency.

Suggested For You

Chronic

By Phil Concannon

The director of After Lucia returns with an intimate but ultimately misguided euthanasia drama.

review

Roma

By David Jenkins

Alfonso Cuaròn’s monumental love poem to Mexico and the woman who made him a man.

review LWLies Recommends

Bacurau

By Biju Belinky

Directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles skewer modern Brazilian history in this subversive survival thriller.

review LWLies Recommends

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design