VIFF 09 Review: The Milk of Sorrow

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Over the years I’ve noticed a trend with South American films, particularly those from countries with a rich cultural/oral tradition: the cultural history often drifts into the filmmaking. Such is the case with Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow, a film whose very basis is drenched in lore.

Fausta is said to suffer from “the milk of sorrow,” an illness that befalls children born and raised on the breast milk of mothers who were violated during the war. Fausta and her mother live with their extended family in Lima but when her mother, a woman who lived most of her life amidst the terrors of war, dies, Fausta is left alone. Traumatized by her mother’s death, she is determined to return her mother’s body to the village of her youth but other problems face her: namely the odd method of self preservation that she has employed and which is now killing her. When Fausta is forced to take a job in order to pay for her trip, she discovers that there is joy in life and she makes what, to her, is the ultimate sacrifice.

The opening moments of Llosa’s film are crucial to understanding the remainder of the story which moves along at a tranquil pace. The film’s best moments come care of Fausta’s family and their various adventures. Small moments like the women preparing for a wedding or the look at the family business, a sort of package deal wedding providers, which give an insightful look at the culture and way of life of these people, individuals who take joy from life’s small miracles.

The Milk of Sorrow is a beautiful looking film which, on the edges, manages to capture the difference of living in the city and barrios that surround it while also providing an insightful look at the culture. It’s a gorgeously shot film which feels almost otherworldly in setting and though it featyres an excellent performance from Magaly Solier in the role of Fausta, the film has an odd emotional detachment which ultimately disappointed.

See VIFF screening schedule for show times.

Marina Antunes
Fassbender for life.

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