La Cienaga review

On a crumbling country estate at La Mandragora in northwest Argentina, two families gather around a filthy swimming pool to wile away the humid summer days. The matriarch Mecha (Graciela Borges) has a brood of surly teenagers, a drink problem and an unreliable husband, while her cousin Tali (Mercedes Moran) has her hands full keeping track of her four young offspring, who relish joining the older kids in hunting expeditions.

An intriguing debut from Argentine director Lucrecia Martel, this portrait of middle-class inertia forgoes a plot-driven narrative in favour of "an accumulation of situations". Resolutely unsentimental in its depiction of childhood and nature, La Ciénaga successfully maintains its clammy, stifling atmosphere of lethargy and enervation. The ensemble performances suggest the eddies of (sometimes incestuous) desire between the characters.

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