Based on the Booker Prize-nominated novel of the same name by author Fernanda Melchor, Hurricane Season is Netflix’s latest prized possession. As much as I like to hate on Netflix, sometimes (very rarely), the platform provides us with such quality content that I have to be grateful. Only recently has world cinema been on my radar, and every day there’s a growing hunger for more unique, deeply cultural cinema coming from different corners of the world. There is an abundance of thematic exploration in this Mexican film. When a bunch of kids find a corpse in the canal of a village named La Matosa, all the town secrets unravel slowly through the stories of five villagers. The film begins with a cryptic note from “The Dead Girls” stating that some of the events presented are true, but all characters are fictional. Author Fernanda Melchor wrote her book based on some events that happened in a small town near her. She admits that she wanted to write a true crime novel but ended up making a fictional one because she was too afraid to follow through with the investigation of the murder that took place.
Hurricane Season transports the viewer to rural Mexico through visuals of sweaty bodies, poverty struggles, violence, machismo, and other grim realities. The film is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, adding a claustrophobic viewing experience to the already terrifying incidents. Undeniably, there’s an urge to appreciate the beauty of the village, even with everything that is happening in it, because of how beautifully the scenes are shot. Specifically, a scene towards the end of the film is right out of a painting, yet it’s one of the bleakest parts. The film is told from the perspective of five people, and although the story itself is not so complex, the structure may feel convoluted. This shouldn’t stop you from watching, though, because the whole process is rewarding at the end, when everything comes together like a house on fire. While each character has their own vices and dabbles in consorting with the shadow world because of their desperation to survive in this difficult life, the structure of the film makes for a compelling narrative that leads us to feel for each of these people, be they perpetrators or victims. Not to say what some of them do is justifiable; there’s just a layer of understanding to it.
Everything about the set-up is fantastic and feels real, like you’re in the atmosphere of this film. From the structure of a character’s house to the witch’s decrepit lair, everything comes across as wildly detailed. The film is littered with violence and horrifying imagery that is not for the faint of heart. We’re getting the answer to one mystery through the minds of five different people, which may feel like a lot, but each of their contributions is just enough to piece together the main course of events. The storytelling is not linear, adding to the complicated nature of the presentation, but it works intriguingly well. The nature of the film is very crass, and scenes are very difficult to watch, especially those involving a 14-year-old character named Norma. The motivations of all the characters become very clear by the end of the film, each wanting some kind of freedom from the boxes they’ve created for themselves thanks to ignorance. A scene just before the end of the film, where two of the main characters hug for a prolonged period of time, really toes the line between beautiful and uncomfortable, only because of everything we’ve seen up until then.
I’m sure the film eliminates some parts of the book to make sure it’s sleek and fit for the 1 hour and 34 minutes. I’m reminded of the Kannada-language film Ulidavaru Kandante, which literally translates to “as seen by others,” which uses a similar unreliable narrative of multiple witnesses to draw conclusions about a murder. Every character is perfectly sketched out, even though their stories get divided amidst the runtime since everyone is interlinked in this small village where everyone knows everyone, and specifically the witch, who is both alluring and horrifying to the young boys of the village. In this world of poverty, money determines action, and debauchery is the price.
This is a very melancholic story about the beauty of rural Mexico that is presented as a thriller but is at its heart a terrifying drama. Director Elisa Miller pervades our minds with the images of the cane fields, the canals, and the witch’s parties with a passion that leaves us thinking about the film far long after it’s done. Maybe it’s an advantage that I haven’t read the book because I get to see this whole story from a fresh perspective, but it’s made me curious to know more about it for sure. This film depicts the harsh realities of the LGBTQ+ community in rural communities and the results of ignorance. It seems the way for young boys to live their lives in this village is by attending the witch’s parties and satisfying their libido with whatever comes to hand.
Although there are parts that make you want to turn away, in terms of pacing, Hurricane Season keeps us engaged from start to finish. The use of angles to go from one story to another and connect the dots is a brilliant choice and a detail that doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s as if we’re with the characters in this situation, joining the gossip and becoming involved in this terrible crime. This is definitely not a film for everyone, but if any of what I’ve just said interests you, then give it a try. Definitely check the trigger warnings first, though. Of course, this film has a lot of profanity, sexual content, violence, and more, so watch it at your own discretion. I’d give Hurricane Season 3.5 out of 5 stars.