October 20, 2021

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‘Fever Dream’ Review: Touching From a Distance

‘Fever Dream’ Review: Touching From a Distance

With “Fever Dream,” the filmmaker Claudia Llosa (“Milk of Sorrow”) enters the intimately destabilizing realms of the Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin, adapting her 2014 novel of the same title. Lllosa’s sensually shot film takes the story of a mother facing strange danger and casts a spell that feels like being dropped into the character’s mind.

It’s almost a shame to specify plot details, because the film expresses a complex emotional perspective without clinging to the genre rules of mystery or the supernatural. Amanda (María Valverde) has just moved into a country house with her daughter, Nina, and is waiting for her husband to join them. She bonds with Carola (Dolores Fonzi), a restless local with the magnetic appeal of an undiscovered movie star. But Carola voices concerns about her own child, David, that morph from maternal anxieties into intimations of evil.

Shot by Oscar Faura (“The Orphanage”) with an unnerving, sunny lucidity that suggests something is off, the movie has an unusual, unsettling voice-over. We hear Amanda — who’s first shown prone in a forest — recounting her memories at David’s insistent prompting. As played by Emilio Vodanovich, the boy comes across variously as rascally and demonic.

What is David asking Amanda to remember, and why? The answer might include a ritual involving the transference of souls, an unforeseen environmental threat, and a sick stallion. But Llosa’s film, which reminded me of Robert Mulligan’s 1972 unsung pastoral chiller “The Other,” evokes more than it explains. It’s like waking up from sleep gripped by an image and a feeling that can’t be shaken.

Fever Dream
Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Watch on Netflix.