Amat Escalante’s Lost in the Night successfully builds its mystery throughout the entire film in a visually compelling thriller.
Lost in the Night (Perdidos en la Noche) marked Amat Escalante’s return to Cannes after winning the Best Director prize in 2013, and is now part of this year’s BFI London Film Festival selection as well. It opens with a quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky from The Dream of a Ridiculous Man: “Killing myself was a matter of such indifference to me that I felt like waiting for a moment when it would make some difference.” While it may sound like a hopeless beginning, it does immediately define the tone of the entire film and its fascinating exploration of modern-day issues in the director’s unique signature style.
Lost in the Night follows Emiliano (Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño), a boy of humble origins who lives in a small mining town in Mexico. At the beginning of the film, Emiliano’s activist mother goes missing in the night for protesting against the mine and trying to protect local jobs. Even three years later, Emiliano is still looking to find those responsible for his mother’s disappearance, helped by his girlfriend Jazmin (Mafer Osio). As he takes justice into his own hands, receiving no help from the local police, he finds a clue leading him to the wealthy Aldama family, made up of Rigo (Fernando Bonilla), Carmen (Bárbara Mori), and Mónica (Ester Expósito). In order to find out more, Emiliano gets a job at their house to uncover the truth behind his mother’s abduction.
Lost in the Night touches on many significant topics and manages to treat all of them with the same importance and relevance. Escalante reflects on key issues of our age, from class divide, which is key to the very premise of the film, religious fervour through the cult-like group who antagonizes Rigo, and the predominant role of social media in our lives, mainly shown through Mónica’s videos and online presence. Most importantly, the film doesn’t just include these relevant topics in its plot, but it does so with striking visuals which stayed with me for a long time after having watched the film. The musical score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is also remarkable and contributes to creating such a tense atmosphere for the whole runtime of the film.
I also thought the theme of water was fascinating. While there are a lot of different thematic strands in Lost in the Night, water seems to be a recurring theme from the very beginning of the film until the final act. We first hear Emiliano talking about water tanks with his sister, hypothesising that they are used to hide bodies by the police but it also comes back in the third act of the movie when we see Emiliano fleeing from the police and using the lake as an escape route. The water in this case seems to function as a rebirth for the main character as it leads to the promise of a new life, one where Emiliano can finally leave all this violence behind.
Visually powerful with stunning cinematography and narratively brilliant in its writing, Lost in the Night is an impressive film that is not easy to forget. It is a poignant portrayal of the darkest side of our current reality, from rampant violence to an obsession with documenting even the most macabre moments on social media. Ultimately, in this movie, everything comes down to a selfish interest in self-preservation, as almost all the characters are only looking out for themselves, no matter at what cost. Escalante’s latest film portrays a bleak picture of today’s world that, unfortunately, doesn’t feel too far from our current reality.
Lost in the Night will be screened at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival on 8-9 October and will be released in select UK cinemas on 24 November 2023. Read our list of 25 movies to watch at the 2023 London Film Festival!