Dir: Matias Bize | Wri: Coral Cruz | Cast: Antonia Zegers, Nestor Cantillana | Drama 85′
A small child turns the tables on his parents in this taut and discursive two-handed drama from the accomplished Chilean director Matias Bize and his screenwriter Coral Cruz.
Ana and Mateo have stopped their car in the woods on their way to visit Ana’s parents for dinner. But a heated argument soon absorbs their attention and seven-year-old Lucas is left to fend for himself. When they are ready to leave, the boy is nowhere to be seen.
Both blaming each other for his disappearance, uncomfortable truths start to surface as the couple question their failure as parents. Ana sternly calls out to Lucas, threatening him with all sorts of privations for his bad behaviour, before eventually ‘phoning the police. It’s a fraught scenario that rings alarm bells for every parent, anything could happen in this bosky backwater, and the camera roves through trees and undergrowth during one tense take.
Zegers’ Ana is ‘mean-mummy’ with her hard-faced disciplinarian approach to dealing with Lucas, and our sympathies lie with her son and his more tolerant father (Cantillana) who, at least, tries to come up with solutions. But then it emerges that Lucas is a bit of a rebel, and not easy to manage, his teachers suspect he is suffering from ADHD.
Gradually Zegers’ wins us over with her plausible confession that eventually brings the drama to its satisfying conclusion, persuading us that motherhood is no picnic; much of the time it is frustrating, gruelling and thankless.
The Punishment is a well-crafted but dour drama that could have worked better as a radio play given the monotonous confines of its setting. Zegers and Cantillana do their best to make Ana and Mateo feel authentic and relatable in a drama that proves, once again, that we are always toughest on the ones we love. MT
TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 2022