Ramon Porto Mota's directorial debut is a perfectly paced mystery. Its deft execution is apparent on every level. The Yellow Night, having recently played at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, fully engages the viewer in ways that similar genre films often attempt but fall short of...
A story about a group of friends who travel to an island beach house to celebrate the end of high-school and then discover that there may be something evil sheltered within the house, the film is bolstered by its young leads strong performances. Specifically, Rana Sai who plays Karina, the initial guide into the story. She inhabits the role with grace and presence that makes one feel she has been performing for years, although this is her first feature. She, along with most of her castmates, will definitely be getting more work in the future. Only time will tell if she branches outside Brazilian audiences but chances are, in a few years she will be a well known name in the industry. It's that good of a performance, further emphasized by the fact that she gets a bit less screen time than her co-stars.
The Yellow Night begins as a story about close friends wanting to party one last time before their lives go in separate directions after high school graduation. The film does a wonderful job setting up the character's relationships to one another in the opening minutes of the film. The connections seem organic and its as if these seven kids truly are friends. It's unusual to see such a strong ensemble carry the film without a weak link in terms of cast.
The friends decide to go to an island where one of the kids grandfather lives. Once they arrive, the atmosphere feels off almost immediately as an unknown tension seems to fill the air. This is emphasized by the film's ingenious sound design. The alternating presence of music and silence is deployed in a way that isn't seen in other films. For instance, around a campfire as the soundtrack turns melancholy, the cast seems visibly affected, at which point someone suggests they change the music. This leads another character to head inside and listen to a song that is later used during a crucial flashback. Sound plays an integral role in moving the story forward and is employed to great effect.
The discovery of the grandfather's research is a fascinating moment. Two of the girls watch a VHS tape that explores some of the mystery that these kids start experiencing. The use of dreams both in dialogue and logic are an impeccable creative decision. A lot of the dialogue is driven by an undertone of mystery that deepens as the story progresses. One almost wishes to see these moments in a larger film with more exploration of the grandfathers study. It would have been fascinating to learn more about his research and what is happening on the island with his granddaughter and her friends.
The only negative thing that can be levied towards this film is its use of the flashback scene. It works but it feels overextended. The flashback eats up too much time at a moment where the film was really taking off. It could have been cut down for more time on the island. It works well enough though because it brings certain things back into focus, and gives more context for this seemingly impromptu trip to the island.
The Yellow Night overall is a wonderfully suspenseful film that keeps the viewer glued to the screen. It uses a lot of powerful imagery to move itself forward while at the same time using intimate dialogue to endear you to its young cast. The believability that these characters are all friends who truly know one another is the script and film's greatest strength. This one should make some waves upon release.
By Justin Drabek
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