A motherland that weeps for her sacrificed, lost, drowned, dead children.
Director Jayro Bustamante offers a compelling and terrifying twist on the popular legend of La Llorona. The original myth tells the story of a woman who, as punishment for drowning her children, must wander the world as a ghost. The living are haunted by her cries. (La Llorona is translated into English as The Crier). In Bustamante’s film, simply titled La Llorona, the ghost was a victim of the brutal Guatemalan Civil War and has come back to haunt Enrique (Julio Diaz), the former general turned dictator.
Enrique, his wife Carmen (Margarita Kenefic), daughter Natalia (Sabrina De La Hoz), and granddaughter Sara (Ayla-Elea Hurtado) all live a cushy life within the walls of their mansion. Their world is turned upside down when Enrique is put on trial and convicted for his role in the 1980s genocide of thousands of indigenous Guatemalans. Now the Mayans who lost family members during the worst days of the Guatemalan Civil War want justice. After Enrique’s bizarre and dangerous behavior, elicited by the cries of a mysterious woman, drives away their staff, they hire a new maid, an Ixil woman named Alma (Maria Mercedes Coroy). The infiltration has begun and Enrique is about to face his reckoning.
“Creating a new version of La Llorona is the perfect opportunity to try to change those stigmas that are etched into our cultural inheritance. At the same time, the psychological suspense that goes along with the character allows me to recount Guatemala’s recent, dark history to a national audience that is generally more interested in purely commercial entertainment movies.”Director Jayro Bustamante
A Shudder original film, La Llorona is a fascinating drama that tells the story of Guatemala’s deep injustices through magical realism. The true horror of La Llorona is income inequality and how it drives those on both sides to do drastic things. The basis of which comes from deep-seated racism against indigenous groups and rampant corruption and greed. In the film, the dictator (inspired by real life Guatemalan president Efrain Rios Montt) and his family depend on the extension of his impunity and his conviction shakes up their world and they can’t quite process the ire of the victims of the civil war.
Anyone who enjoyed Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and want to explore about the inequalities between white Latino and indigenous communities, will want to check this one out. I much prefer La Llorona‘s approach as it demonstrates an uprising of the disenfranchised rather than keeping things status quo.
The climax of La Llorona was a bit too predictable for my tastes. However, the film offers plenty of atmosphere, context and haunting visual imagery that will keep viewers enthralled throughout.
“Guatemala is one of the richest and most diverse countries in Central America, but levels of inequality remain high. The historical exclusion of indigenous people, especially women, means they lack access to education, health services, political participation and land.”Oxfam America
La Llorona is available to watch on Shudder.
Please note that this film is not to be confused with The Curse of La Llorona (2019) or La Llorona (2020).