A woman walks by a rocky coastal area in broad daylight, all alone and not a soul around her. Suddenly, she gets hit in the head with a rock and falls to the ground, dead. Soon after, we are re-introduced to her, but in a less than physical form – she is in a ghost-like state as she joins the rest of her family members in their estate. While the atmosphere seems joyful enough – they’re laughing and dancing around – the ghosts have a problem: they cannot move on until the patriarch of the family also dies. The situation gets more troublesome as Miguel, now left completely alone, starts making plans to find new meaning away from the family’s house.
Olvidadizo’s premise is ambitious, but the short film, which clocks in at around 25 minutes of runtime, aptly delivers. Inspired from Mexican folklore, Dia de los Muertos in particular, but also from writer and director Arturo Alanis’ own familial circumstances, the project presents death in a manner in which most Europeans are unfamiliar with. It is not only this uniqueness that adds value to this film and makes it an extraordinarily entertaining experience. ‘Olvidadizo‘ abounds in good-quality comic relief, while also weaving a narrative line that is more layered and complex than in the case of many feature films that reserve significantly more time for exposition and portrayal of characters. There are some small hiccups here and there, and some missed opportunities to shed additional light on the common past between Miguel and his recently deceased daughter, Laia, but all in all the film does its job almost to perfection.
The main themes include, as mentioned before, death, family, as well as a more personal or collective selfishness. It shows that humans are selfish beings that, despite sharing the same blood and being tied by loving relationships, never quite relinquish their selfish tendencies. The resulting conflict stemming from the methods which the deceased family members employ to try to stop Miguel from fleeing, as well as the interior struggle of Miguel himself, who is torn between leaving his familiar environment in search of new meaning and staying home, speak volumes about human nature. The plot cleverly hides some key elements, or at least doesn’t make them readily apparent until the right time, so that maximum impact is achieved once they do come into play. It is a smart expository manner and this gives heightened value to a second viewing of the film.
All in all, ‘Olvidadizo’ is a fantastic achievement that is successful in making the most out of its interesting premises. There are a number of pitfalls along the way, given the context, but the film by Arturo Alanis manages to craft its way through without falling into any of them, and in the end, offers a beautiful and humane story that really managed to impress us. The end might be a bit predictable, and some avenues might have benefitted for further exploration, but these minor details do not detract from the wonderful final result which is achieved.