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SXSW 2019 Film Review: “The Longest Night” (2019) ★★★★★


What is the main duty of cinema? It has to entertain us, am I not right? It has to give us hope, a life lesson, provide guidance, and show a variety of people we may never meet in our lifetime. But how are we supposed to enjoy or feel entertained during the preview of  “The Longest Night”? Sadly, this film explores the topic of prostitution and its devastating implications on those who are impacted.

Pilar aka Dana is a beautiful woman. She becomes a victim of pharmaceutical drugs that turned her into an addict. In the meantime, she is being exploited through prostitution by her boss, Nelson, who sends her a clear message that she must pay off her debts to him. But her problem continues on a personal level as well when her daughter becomes severely sick and she can’t do anything about it. But as some point when she meets a man named Julian, one of her clients, she hopes that maybe this time she can escape the physical and mental torture and finally build a family she never properly had. But no matter what she does, the reality of a harsh life has its own ending written for her that she’s yet to find out.

Written and directed by Gabriela Calvache, “The Longest Night” is another reminder that for a woman to survive in the world of men, she must rely only on herself. Julian, played by Cristian Mercado is Dana’s client who seems to admire her a lot. He is the opposite of Nelson – gentle, kind, caring and never thinks twice when it comes to holding Dana’s hand out of appreciation for having her by his side. When Pilar was attacked by one of Nelson’s messengers, she had to check herself into the hospital where Nelson finds out Pilar’s home address. As the two develop a special bond, Pilar secretly continues using the drug that helps her mind to stay awake.

We learn that Pilar wants to do everything possible to free herself from Nelson and his human trafficking. And during one of her conversations with Julian, she even says almost hopelessly, “In this business men cheat women. They make them fall in love then they kidnap them, then they rape them. If women refuse to become a prostitute, they end up dead. Or their children.” That alone draws a dark line between the prospects of Dana’s plan and the vision of the same reality that has no intention to be so kind to her.

As for the performance, Noëlle Schönwald as Dana is superb, realistic, sympathetic, yet all about trouble. We start liking her right from the beginning and we never stop caring about her when she does the same for herself. As the viewer, you will also become very close to her and be protective, however, there’s nothing much we can do for her as we will be forced to see how her plan plays out in a very dark and dangerous way. As she will hold the gun in her hand, we will be in anticipation of the bullet coming out of the loaded gun, the direction of it we will be too scary to predict. And no one else except Gabriela Calvache will know how it all will end. And when it does, you won’t be much surprised. Because life is not just about the longest night, it is about the night that, if is too kind, will let the morning take its turn. But you know how it usually happens – not everyone is fortunate enough to make it through.

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