With Feverish Dream, director Claudia Llosa (Milk of Sorrow) enters the deeply destabilizing realms of Argentine writer Samantha Schweblin, adapting her 2014 novel of the same title. Llosa’s sensually filmed film tells the story of a mother facing a strange danger and casts a spell that seems to be thrown into the character’s mind.
It is almost embarrassing to elaborate on plot details because the film expresses a complex emotional perspective without clinging to genre rules of mystery or the supernatural. Amanda (Maria Valverde) has just moved into a country house with her daughter Nina and is waiting for her husband to join them. She grows close to Carola (Dolores Fonzi), a restless local who is attracted to an unknown movie star. But Carola expresses concern about her own child, David, who has gone from being a mother’s anxiety to being a hint of evil.
Filmed by Oscar Faura (Orphanage) with an eerie sunny clarity that suggests something is wrong, the film features an unusual, unsettling voiceover. We hear Amanda, who was first shown lying in the woods, recount her memories at David’s insistence. In the role of Emilio Vodanovich, the boy gives the impression of villains and demons.
What is David asking Amanda to remember and why? The answer could include a soul transfer ritual, an unforeseen environmental threat, and a sick stallion. But Llosa’s film, which reminded me of Robert Mulligan’s unsung 1972 pastoral cooler, The Other, is more challenging than it explains. It is like waking up from a dream, engulfed in an image and a feeling that cannot be shaken.
Nominal R. Duration: 1 hour 33 minutes. Watch on Netflix.