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Is it You? (Eres tu, Papa?) Review: Cuban horror film with a brutally different look

‘Is That You?’ is a striking film.

Is That You? (Eres tu, Papa?) is the story of a poor Cuban family. Eduardo rules over his family with a tight grip. His wife Alina is literally a prisoner. Their daughter Lili has been provided more freedom and due to this seems to accept her father’s treatment as normal. When he suddenly disappears, Lili tries to cope with the strange disappearance.

Visually, Is That You? is striking. The movie is awash in browns, grays, and beiges. The lack of color emphasizes the mood of the film. The characters are sad and confused. Those who commit unspeakable acts have little conflict in the decisions they make. Adding in bright colors and using joyful music would almost contradict that statement the movie is trying to make. Movies can effectively use music and colors that are opposite of the script’s tone, but it would have seemed out of place here.

There is also interesting use of sound in the movie. There are really only two extremes. It is either eerily silent or uncomfortably loud. Before anything truly bad has been revealed, Alina loudly cutting meat makes things incredibly tense. What makes it especially good is there is no immediate source of danger. It is the setting itself that provokes fear. This is expertly done through the vast majority of the movie.

The pacing is where some viewers will lose interest. Is That You? is not a typical horror movie filled with jump scares and frantic chases. Director and writer Rudy Riveron Sanchez employs a more methodical approach. The early stages of the movie introduce the audience to the movie’s main characters. The story never truly speeds up, remaining more of a character study than a suspenseful gorefest.

The movie’s powerful acting is able to shine thanks to the film’s pacing. Gabriela Ramos is the stand out of Is That You? This makes sense as she is forced to carry much of the movie. The movie’s title is also a question that is posed by Lili. Ramos’s character is the most conflicted. She trusts what her dad is doing is correct, but it is obvious a part of her questions it. She also loves her mother. This leads to Lili having to overlook what her father does despite the obvious pain it causes her mother. It is a weird Stockholm  Syndrome/willing obliviousness hybrid that Ramos captures perfectly.

The writing is erratic and is ultimately what prevents the movie from being something truly special. After Eduardo disappears, Lili goes to extremes to try to bring him back from what she thinks has happened. The movie takes a very interesting turn at this point. Is everything that is happening a product a Lili’s profound guilt or has her attempted ritual actually worked?

The question works perfectly with the pacing and direction. Eduardo’s voice is heard, but he is only seen in shadows. Lili also does many awful things. Some are dreams and some are real, but the audience is kept guessing. It keeps everyone watching on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next.

Towards the end of the movie, Sanchez throws ambiguity out the window. It is made obvious exactly what is happening. It is somewhat thought-provoking look at mental abuse and trauma and even makes sense. Unfortunately, it is handled very poorly. It is especially noticeable since the movie has taken its time building these characters and letting audiences think about them. Just giving an answer at the end is counter to the rest of the movie.

This is most obvious in the movie’s closing shot. There is a moment a few minuets before the film actually ends that would have served as a very powerful ending. Instead, the final credits roll as the movie gets louder (the one time sound is used poorly), in a flat and unsatisfying scene. This also underscores another issue with Is That You? At times, it seems very bloated. There is not anything that seems unnecessary, but there is a lot that seems unimportant. In a movie that moves at a near glacial pace, every scene needs to mean something and that is not the case here.

Is That You? is an interesting horror movie. It provides a unique setting while providing rich characters and interesting themes. The movie is very flawed and contradicts itself at times. Characters make odd decisions and the pacing can make for a difficult watch. There is a lot of good here, but the film could have been helped with a tighter focus.

Is That You? (Eres tu, Papa?)
Is it good?
There is a whole lot of potential as the movie explores interesting themes. It runs long lessening the impact.
Ramos is great in her roles as the conflicted daughter
A very interesting premise
No hand holding until the end when there is too much of it
Slow paced will turn some off
6
Average
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