An unlikely but undeniably charming oddity

The “I see dead people” concept has been done to death, but this winner of the Sundance World Cinema Audience Award lifts the idea out of purgatory with a blast of originality.

Set in a small fishing village in which traditional values are the law, Miguel balances life with his pregnant wife with a secret relationship with ostracized artist Santiago (Manolo Cardona of Beverly Hills Chihuahua “fame”). When Santiago dies at sea, his spirit, unable to rest without a burial ritual, returns to Miguel. Miguel, however, is more than happy to embrace his newly unseen relationship with his lover. But can he risk everything by laying Santiago to rest?

The blend of fantasy and realism doesn’t gel quite as smoothly as could be hoped - especially with Santiago’s arrival in the netherworld - but Undertow poses plenty of intriguing questions about religion, masculinity, homosexuality and honour in its two contrasting scenarios. Playing out over a beautifully captured coastal backdrop, the strongly conventional performances ensure that this is an examination of humanity’s moral challenges rather than a mythical supernatural tale.

As it builds towards a truly moving conclusion, it becomes apparent that Undertow is an unlikely but undeniably charming oddity.


Words by Ben Hopkins

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