Review: ‘Identifying Features’ is devastating and captivating.

IDENTIFYING FEATURES

Directed by Fernanda Valadez
Written by Fernanda Valadez & Astrid Rondero
Middle-aged Magdalena (Mercedes Hernandez) has lost contact with her son after he took off with a friend from their town of Guanajuato to cross the border into the U.S., hopeful to find work. Desperate to find out what happened to him—and to know whether or not he’s even alive—she embarks on an ever-expanding and increasingly dangerous journey to discover the truth. At the same time, a young man named Miguel (David Illescas) has returned to Mexico after being deported from the U.S., and eventually, his path converges with Magdalena’s. From this simple but urgent premise, director Fernanda Valadez has crafted a lyrical, suspenseful slow burn, equally constructed of moments of beauty and horror, and which leads to a startling, shattering conclusion. Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Audience and Screenplay Awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
Every once in a blue moon a film comes along that pushes you past your own emotional boundaries. The heaviness of the stories in Identifying Features swallows you whole. You are forced to confront the realities that are far too often swept under the political rug here in the US and are dreaded in Mexico. With a score that vibrates your already unsettled soul, the handheld cinematography puts you in the shoes of any one of these individuals getting shoved back across the border… And those who don’t ever make it. The alternating scenes from a mother to a son build up a visceral tension to an ending that is beyond shocking. The intimacy of the sound editing and long lingering beautifully shot close-ups force you to remain engaged no matter how badly you’d like to look away. Identifying Features is brilliant in its unyielding honesty. You will sink so far into the depths of these families’ grief, digging out will take more time than you’ll realize. It’s nothing short of captivating.
This film is now playing in virtual cinemas. Click here to find a Kino Marquee virtual cinema supporting a theater near you.
Mexico /In Spanish with English subtitles / 94 min

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.