Miami Film Festival

Miami Film Festival 2015: The Obscure Spring Is a Trip Down Misery Lane

The Obscure Spring (Las Oscuras Primaveras) is one of the grimmest movies about the consequences of irrational passions that you'll ever see. Both its subject and its uneven execution will hardly make for a fun night at the movies.

The Mexican film, which has its U.S. premiere at Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival tonight, follows a married man and a divorced mother living with her son. Lust eclipses responsibility and the love between husband and wife, mother and son slowly and painfully unravels.

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We first meet Igor (José María Yazpik) working underground on a steamy, dripping network of pipes. A woman, dressed in office clothes, walks down a staircase. At first she's a blur in the background, little more than ghostly presence. But then Igor seeks her out, and she undoes her blouse, revealing a leopard print bra. Igor dives in with a wide, slurping mouth. After bending down to nuzzle under her skirt, Igor pushes her away, and she strides off, shaken, hastily putting herself together. "What's your name?" he says, as she leaves him in that dark basement. We soon learn it is Pina (Irene Azuela), a divorcée trying to raise her son by herself while working as a secretary.

The cold industrial atmosphere of the basement where the couple indulge in their liaisons throughout much of the film offers a heavy-handed metaphor to the dramatic irony. Igor's wife, Flora (Cecilia Suárez), can only sense something is wrong with her husband, but hardly knows whether or not he's is having an affair. Pina has problems of her own, trying to juggle a job and take care of her young son Lorenzo (Hayden Meyenberg).

Maybe the couple thinks they can get away with it. The consequences are, however, inevitable. Though love in the shadows blossoms between these two strangers, their love outside begins to wither. He becomes disaffected with his wife, she becomes abusive to her son.

Shot by director Ernesto Contreras' regular cinematographer Tonatiuh Martínez, The Obscure Spring features an appropriately chilly ambient score of throbbing din by Emmanuel del Real. The components of the film are well-executed, but as a whole, it falters.

The stereotypical "sexy" attire of Pina minimizes the complexities of her role as a single mother losing patience with her son. Then, the movie's grim message leans on a cruel, random ending for Igor's wife. Meanwhile, the only "closure" for Pina's son is so banal and low-key that it feels unresolved, ending on a note as chilly as the movie's atmosphere.

The Obscure Spring is ultimately uneven and reaches so far to make a profound statement that it stumbles. The opening image of a boy in profile, dressed in a lion costume, looking out at a dark, blurred out desolate landscape is supposed to resonate by film's end. When the film's message -- that chaos rules -- unfolds, any reach to connect the beginning and ending falls flat.

An interesting notion seems to have inspired the film, but by the end of this trip down misery lane, you may wonder why you walked down such an unhappy path.

The Obscure Spring has its U.S. premiere at the Miami International Film Festival on Thursday March 12, at 9:30 p.m. at the Cinepolis in Coconut Grove. It also screens Saturday, March 14, at 4 p.m. at the Regal South Beach. Tickets are $13. Call 844-565-6433 or visit

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Hans Morgenstern has contributed to Miami New Times for too many decades, but he's grown to love Miami's arts and culture scene because of it. He is the chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and most of his film criticism can be found on Independent Ethos ( if not in New Times.