Neruda movie poster
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Neruda
Neruda movie poster

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda is the type of movie that makes people hate film critics. The film has a freaking 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, it was nominated for a Golden Globe and it must be the most amazing movie ever, right? Ninety-six damned percent.

I almost guarantee you won't like Neruda, unless you like your movies the way stodgy critics do. Oh, it's technically beautiful! What a thoughtful, deep screenplay! What a fascinating, unique take on a fascinating man!

Doesn't matter.

Neruda is a bore. A chore. A contemplative poem about poems written by a poet mashed into a story about an authoritarian government, a man on the run and the investigator who has vowed to bring him to justice, Neruda attempts to paint itself as a biography with purpose but finds itself in an aimless walkabout. It’s artistic, yes, intelligently constructed, but it’s a project best left to film study classes where students can attempt to stay awake or tuned in or keep from stabbing themselves in the temple with their pencils, if students still use pencils these days.

Directed by Pablo Larraín, whose other 2016 drama was the riveting, profoundly intense Jackie, Neruda plays in odd contrast, as if making the tightly wound, precise and coldly efficient Jackie Kennedy examination used up all of the director’s narrative ability and desires so that all he was left with was a dream--not the intoxicating, mesmerizing kind of dream you sometimes have about beautiful naked people but one of those meandering, meaningless ones you forget long before you even wake up.

Oddly, Neruda only works in its waning minutes after it goes full allegory, with Larraín flipping the narrative on its head and transforming the movie into the poem he was apparently trying to tell the whole time--or whether because I knew that my two hours of servitude to this drab story was coming to an end, two hours of watching uninteresting characters and purposefully flat performances (Gael García Bernal, who also starred in Larraín’s No, literally does little other than stare into the abyss of boredom, mirroring my own emotions) spout poetry and not much else.

No, Neruda was not my thing, and it probably won’t be yours, either. Other critics have loved it, presumably because it’s doesn’t bend to conventions, but this is one poem best left unheard.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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