Netflix has continued to release spooky movies from here to Halloween, most recently the thriller Chili Fever Dream. In this adaptation of Samantha Schweblin’s novel The Distance of Rescat. The director and screenwriter Claudia Llosa touch on some of the subtle major mother concerns. And the result is Netflix’s dreaded 2021 season of greatest horror.
Someone drags Amanda (Maria Valverde) through the forest.
The boy’s voice asked the question. He answered them. And the following story is told in a pile of memories, flashbacks to his current delirium. “It’s the first time I’ve seen you,” he tells the boy. As he and his little daughter Nina (Guillermina Sorribes Liotta). Which gets a drive over a bridge and see him lazily hanging his hands in the river in a rowboat. Amanda and Nina are really new to this small town and spend the summer in a country house. With plans to have their husband/dad join them in the coming weeks. Beautiful golden fields, lush forests, and vital waterways make up the landscape. It’s hot outside.
Amanda and Nina barely look around as their neighbour Carola (Dolores Fonzi). Who climbs the trail with two buckets of water, a good sign – the drinking water here isn’t that great, she explains. Amanda and Carola quickly became friends. They sit alongside by the pool, and Carola tells her the story – flashback to flashback. The boy we’ve seen and heard of before? This is Carola’s son David (Emilio Vodanovic).
Carola’s husband is a horse breeder. A few years ago, his prized stallion jumped over the fence. Carola grabs little David to look for him and finds him dying at the edge of the woods. David wanders and plays in a nearby puddle; his mother takes it, and we see a dead bird nearby. David quickly falls ill with a hot fever, and Carola, not trusting the village clinic to get a doctor in time, puts him in a rowboat and takes him upstream to an old woman in a greenhouse who “walks” over him. The process is more voodoo than science but seems to have saved David’s life.
The boy was no longer the same since then. “He’s a monster,” said Carola.
He couldn’t hug her anymore, stalks and stares and acts disgusting, but Amanda treats him warmly. He played a bit with Nina, which was good because Amanda was never far from her daughter, he and Carola have intense and intimate conversations. Still, Amanda always gives some of her attention to Nina and calculates the “rescue distance” between her and her child if something terrible happens. Will something terrible happen? It’s almost inevitable, considering Amanda’s blurry state in the series of images creates an uncomfortable and disturbing atmosphere for this film.
The affection and tension between Amanda and Carola give Fever Dream its depth: Carola is more trusting, Amanda is more sceptical (maybe country life brings someone to life?). Amanda doesn’t really judge Carol for calling David a monster, but we know Amanda’s thoughts, and she’s probably wondering how a mother feels about her child. What happened here? This is an important topic covered in the film, but it also explores what connects women, the foundation of their friendship. Simple intimacy binds them together, and they find solace in each other’s company. It’s nice to have a confidant – without her husband, Amanda feels isolated, and we feel Carol’s emotional distance from her husband through everything that happened to David. Llosa seems to cultivate the best sexual tension between the summer heat and golden light combined with the warm cinematography to create an entirely sensual atmosphere.
Of course, you can also call this atmosphere a dream:
True to the film’s structure, it is clipped and out of focus, blurred and semi-conscious, with overlapping repetitive moments sometimes presented out of sequence. It feels intuitive rather than precise and calculated, and the result is a watch that is distracting and confusing but just as enjoyable. The plot doesn’t ignore random clichés – a bit of an old school misguidance, a touch of folk mysticism – and offers a relatively poor conclusion given the riches of what it was before. But Llosa’s extraordinary mastery of the material, visually and thematically, makes this impressive psychological thriller hard to shake.