‘Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’ – Review (AFI Fest)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is a deeply personal, yet eccentric ride that highlights his best work to date.

When we meet Silverio Gama (Daniel Giménez Cacho), he has about as wild of a dream as you could have. From floating in the air like Superman to his son’s birthing (ish) to riding home on a bus with fish that he bought for his home, he wakes up disjointed from the dream. Silverio is fighting the uphill battle of traveling back home to Mexico with his family to accept an award for his journalism, only to have to jump back into the US to do the same.

From the moment this film started, you knew that you were in for a wild ride, but one of the things I wasn’t prepared for was the self-reflection I felt within Iñárritu’s writing of Silverio. Sure, Silverio was a successful journalist and filmmaker, but he was also a flawed husband and father who, through that hard work, made some difficult decisions.

Most people assume your dreams or goals are shot when you have kids. Furthermore, when you are in a relationship with kids, one of the parents (if not both) gives up on their dreams while the other chases them. It’s a battle of give-and-take that can take a toll on a relationship and even cause long-lasting wounds that can’t be fixed. So when that one person is chasing that dream, it can come at the expense of missing sports games, musical performances, or anniversaries. Throughout the film, you notice that Silverio misses many things, and as we start to unpack more and more of this story, he begins to realize that. Iñárritu highlights the importance of family and being there for the things that matter.

Speaking of family, you see that Silverio’s kids are being raised in a privileged life, compared to how he grew up. I loved how intricate this was to the story-telling because the conversations with his son made you realize that most of the current generation doesn’t understand how hard it was (and still is) for immigrants in this country. In one moment of the film, Iñárritu has a stunning shot sequence that shows many Mexicans doing everything they can to get across the border. From having sand all over their bodies to their dry mouths to praying what might be their last prayer, hoping to make it across, he didn’t shy away from the real side of it all. It’s one of the most powerful shots of the year.

The way that Daniel Giménez Cacho brought life into his character is worthy of all the praise. We hear the names Austin Butler, Brendan Fraser, and Colin Farrell spoken about as the best male performances of the year, but Cacho’s name belongs right next to theirs. He genuinely captivates you from the opening credits to the final scene. There’s not much else this man could’ve done; he laid his heart into the role, and it showed. 

“Please do not demand logic in this film. There is no space for that in dreams,” Iñárritu said as he presented the film. After watching Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, that comment makes plenty of sense. However, it takes a bold filmmaker willing to take a massive risk in hopes that the audience will follow him. Personally, the gamble pays off, as this is Iñárritu’s best film to date. It’s one of the year’s most beautifully executed scripts. 

Like all Iñárritu films, the technical aspects of this movie work on every level. Composer Bryce Dessner and cinematographer Darius Khondji both provide an elevated layer to the film. While the movie felt a tad long, it almost felt necessary for how Iñárritu told the story, so I give him credit for his editing work on the film. 

Overall, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is one of the most daring pieces of film you will watch all year. I recommend you go into this movie with an open mind and shut your brain off (as Iñárritu said ahead of the screening). If you do, you will be rewarded with a damn good piece of film-making. 

Grade: A-

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: Best International Feature, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography
Should be Considered: Best Actor (Daniel Giménez Cacho), Best Original Score, Best Production Design

Release Date: In Select Theaters Now; December 16, 2022 on Netflix
Where to Watch: In Select Theaters; Netflix

Ricky Valero
Lives in Nashville
Favorite Director: Damien Chazelle
Sign: Aquarius

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