Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, 2022.
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
Starring Daniel Giménez Cacho, Griselda Siciliani, Ximena Lamadrid, and Iker Sanchez Solano.
A renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker returns home and works through an existential crisis as he grapples with his identity, familial relationships, and the folly of his memories.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s work is always impressive. The filmmaker works behind the camera like a painter on his canvas, just fluid motions and inspired choices. His latest offering, Bardo, is more of that art.
Right after my screening, I was extremely torn about the film. The new dramatic surreal dark comedy from the man behind Birdman and The Revenant hits you hard, almost so hard that you can’t comprehend what hit you. Overall, I just found it a bit too depressing and slightly cold. And then, throughout the evening and especially after a roundtable discussion with Iñárritu, it all started to come together.
I almost found myself too inexperienced at life to fully grasp it, but much like any art, you need to be ready to absorb its messages. While I still find Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths a tough pill to swallow, the surreal moments and dark comedy stylings all clicked at one point.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu not only crafted one of his best films to date but one of the most poignant looks at birth, death, and the tricky act of living your life.
The protagonist of Bardo is Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a Mexican documentary filmmaker with a career that pulls him and his family from their home country to their second home in the States. He’s at a point where he begins to reflect on his life and career, giving way to some highly surreal moments throughout the film. When dealing with Silverio, we live in a dream-like state; you never know what may be true or something in his mind, but sometimes it doesn’t matter.
We are experiencing Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, like a lucid dream. We are aware of the absurdity around us, but we can’t grasp anything. This allows the film’s tone to shift freely, from heartbreaking moments to hilarious insanity within seconds. Take the introduction where we see a baby being born before requesting to be returned to his mother’s womb to be dealt with later. We get what is happening but don’t uncover the deeper meanings until later.
The whole film plays like that, making a first-time viewing daunting. There are so many moving pieces, so many characters to meet, and so many strange moments you can feel overwhelmed quickly. That’s what Iñárritu intended, so the goal was accomplished, yet I don’t blame anyone who feels the film is too much to ask.
Silverio also plays a cheeky character, sometimes abrasive or even hard to deal with. That’s not a swipe against Daniel Giménez Cacho, who throws his heart & soul into the film. It just gets a bit exhausting to follow this character around in a dense and demanding film. Thankfully Silverio is surrounded by a wonderful family that helps cut out some of the bullshit the character is spewing and forces him to “keep it real.”
Griselda Siciliani plays Lucía with such a delicate but strong power; it’s honestly a masterful performance and will already go down as one of the year’s most overlooked supporting roles. Playing the wife to a character like this offers a lot of excellent material, and working with a director like Alejandro G. Iñárritu gives Griselda Siciliani such breathing room.
Ximena Lamadrid and Iker Sanchez Solano round out the main cast as the children of Daniel Giménez Cacho’s Silverio. They provide critical moments to Silverio at some of the film’s most noteworthy moments. The pool scene shared between Daniel Giménez Cacho & Ximena Lamadrid is touching and is one of my favorite scenes of the year.
In one of the film’s most talked about scenes, Silverio gets into an argument with his friend Carlos, who happens to be hosting a show they are currently on. While discussing Silverio’s latest film, he calls it aimless and pretentious. Hilariously, it seems like Alejandro G. Iñárritu already knew folks were beginning to feel that way about Bardo, given its deeply personal and strange nature.
If you look up some of the other reactions to the film, it seems like they think Iñárritu went “full Iñárritu” for the lack of a better term. We’re seeing a director free to make whatever he wants, and he did just that. But does pure unhinged art make for the best experience for everyone else? That’s often a question in cases like this, and it’s fair to say that Bardo isn’t going to be for everyone.
The film was already trimmed down from its Venice debut when I saw it at the AFI Fest. But it’s fair to say the project could see another twenty minutes shaven off somewhere. Everything presented is stellar, and it’s truly remarkable to see a filmmaker like this get free range to craft his dreams. There’s just a way to unleash all of that beauty while making it more digestible. Iñárritu took it upon himself to edit the project, which led to preserving the full artistic vision, but the entire piece could benefit from a lesson in killing your darlings.
Yet, maybe the over-indulgent nature of the film is exactly what we needed from this. There’s a possibility that Bardo doesn’t work if it doesn’t slap you in the face with its utter insanity.
It’s safe to say that Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s latest won’t enter the awards season as hot as his other entries. It’s been roughly seven years since The Revenant, and it’s hard to duplicate that type of success. But success isn’t about awards; it’s about being happy and making yourself feel comfortable in what you’ve done. And honestly, no one seems more comfortable in their spot than Iñárritu.
In many ways, Bardo is Iñárritu’s victory lap as an artist: We feel every emotion, we’re completely drained from the journey, but we know we just had a life-changing experience after completing it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★