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#TIFF20 Review: New Order (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 17, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Welcome to New Order, the latest film from Mexican director Michel Franco that brutally shows a dystopic nightmare unfolding in Mexico City. The action starts at the wedding of Marianne (Naian Gonzaléz Norvind), an upperclass woman in a rich neighbourhood who is trying to get married as the streets around her devolve into chaos brought on by a violent, populist uprising.

But the celebration gets interrupted by a former employee, Rolando (Eligio Meléndez), who used to work for Marianne’s family, and has come seeking their help, needing money to pay for his wife’s emergency heart surgery. The family brushes him off, so Marianne takes it upon herself to leave her own wedding and drive his wife to the hospital, sending her right into the heart of the protests that have taken over the streets and are paving the way for a military takeover.

The film is at its strongest during the first half of its quick 86 minute running time, giving way to a shocking home invasion sequence. After that, New Order loses some of its initial focus and starts to lack satisfying character development. The film is purposely ambiguous, but this is also sort of its downfall, making it hard to discern what exactly it is trying to say beyond offering a series of nightmarish scenes. It’s an allegorical tale about how quickly a populist uprising could lead to a military takeover, yes, but we also aren’t given quite enough for it to leave more of an impact beyond the surface thrills.

This makes the film feel sort of empty in a way that other works about class disparity, like last year’s Parasite, did not. Franco’s choice to turn the privileged, white Marianne into the de facto protagonist, instead of her family’s Indigenous Mexican servants and housekeepers who become part of the uprising, is also somewhat questionable. But the surface thrills of New Order can’t be discounted, and Franco has still crafted a purposely provocative work that is mainly meant to evoke strong, visceral reactions in viewers with its upsetting imagery.

The film is well made on a technical level, with images of riots and their ruinous aftermath, as well as militarized police taking over the streets, that feel prescient in their similarity to the current moment we are living in. It’s a brutal, deeply cynical film that dares viewers to look away, and I’m not saying that you should, but your mileage will also vary.

Naian Gonzaléz Norvind in New Order

Public Screenings:

Tuesday, September 15th – 9:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Tuesday, September 15th – 9:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Wednesday, September 16th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Wednesday, September 16th – 9:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

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