Fever Dream

Amanda (María Valverde) arrives early at her father’s old house in the Argentinean countryside to begin vacationing with her young daughter Nina (Guillermina Sorribes Liotta), her husband Marco (Guillermo Pfening) due to arrive later from Spain.  But as she drives there, she’s already having a telepathic conversation with David (Marcelo Michinaux, Emilio Vodanovich), the strange young boy who tells Amanda to ‘pay attention to the details’ and whose mother, Carola (Dolores Fonzi), Amanda will immediately be drawn to in “Fever Dream.”

Laura's Review: C

Writer/director Claudia Llosa’s ("Aloft") adaptation of Samanta Schweblin's novel observes the constant fears inherent within motherhood, but the disjointed folk horror world she sets it in ultimately derails the film.   There are things to admire here, such as Fonzi’s compelling screen presence and cinematography that emphasizes natural landscapes, but there are also other drawbacks, like the film’s initial over reliance on narration.  Fonzi is so vibrant, Valverde suffers in comparison, making her character difficult to root for.  Be forewarned that Netflix is releasing the Spanish language film in a dubbed version that does some of the cast no favors with stilted English line readings.

The first thing we notice after David stresses looking for details is a three legged dog.  The first time Amanda sees him, he’s in a rowboat beneath a bridge.   And when Carola comes to welcome her, she carries two buckets of water, advising that sometimes the tap isn’t fit to drink.  Later, she will allow her glass of lemonade to fall into the grass beside her lounge chair.  These details all follow a prologue in which Amanda, appearing near death, is dragged through the woods.

But it is within the tale Carola eventually tells Amanda about David, which begins with her husband Omar’s (Germán Palacios) underhanded ‘borrowing’ of a pricey stud stallion, a story involving poisoning and a trip to the ‘green house’ where a local witch performs a ‘migration,’ that things begin to get nonsensical.  To save David, Amanda agrees to have his spirit ‘split,’ one half going into a healthy body, the David that remains only half himself.  Amanda condemns Carola for not trusting her son, yet has nightmares in which Nina tells her she is David.  But if you expect to learn who owned that healthy body and second spirit, you are looking for a more coherent movie, as this one’s concerns turn to eco-horrors.   Yes, those details have gone there before and they add up to some degree, but not in a satisfying way.

“Fever Dream’s” two mothers’ relationships with their children within a folk fantasy realm intrigue for a while, but Llosa’s fragmented style is an acquired taste.

Robin's Review: C+

A woman, Amanda (Maria Valverde), wakes on the ground in the woods, paralyzed. Suddenly, a hazy figure begins to drag her away, questioning her. This begins what will become an environmentally dangerous tale of pollution, corporate greed and motherhood in “Fever Dream.”

Writer-director Claudia Llosa adapts the 2014 novel by Samanta Schweblin and combines poisoning the environment with pesticides with a supernatural element called “the migration.” Right up front, the viewer must pay attention to this stylized story that uses a series of flashbacks to introduce the players and their plights.

There is an element of “The Monkey’s Paw” in the story that has Carola (Dolores Fonzi) confronted with death when her young son, David (Marcel Michinaux), while walking in the wood, comes in contact with toxic poisons. Certain to die, she puts the boy in the hands of the “woman in the green house” to trans-migrate to boy with another creature. He lives, but is not the same David (Emilio Vodanovich).

Amanda and her young daughter arrive in the area and Nina faces the same dangers as David as the story shifts back and forth between characters and time. This constant shifting tends to confuse things with all the shifting. The supernatural aspect of the story overshadows the bigger environmental tale of toxins and corporate corruption. I should not be confused about what I am seeing.

Netflix releases "Fever Dream" in theaters on 10/6/21 and on Netflix on 10/13/21.