BARDO, FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS -- A Wonderfully Surreal, Personal Film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Review by Sean Boelman
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths was considered an awards frontrunner, but when it debuted at the fall festivals, its reception was less than stellar. Thankfully, Iñárritu has made a new cut that must be greatly improved — because it is one of the best films of the year.
The movie follows an acclaimed journalist and documentarian who goes on a surreal journey to understand his past and his identity. It’s a film that presents itself as something complicated and convoluted, but when it gets down to it, there is a more conventional narrative beneath it that really draws everything together.
Clocking in at over two and a half hours long — around a half hour shorter than the original cut — there is definitely some repetitiveness throughout the movie. However, when this repetition occurs, it definitely adds to the story. There is also a wicked sense of humor sprinkled throughout that will keep the viewer invested.
As is the case with Birdman — the film for which Iñárritu won his first Academy Award for Best Director — the highlight of Bardo is its surrealist elements. There are certainly some points that go off the rails, and while they are likely to be a bit too bizarre for general audiences to vibe with, those who are on Iñárritu’s wavelength will be sure to be impressed.
Iñárritu definitely attempts to address some ambitious themes, including the immigrant experience, Mexican identity, fatherhood, and more. Although it’s a lot to chew, the movie is so undeniably personal that it’s hard not to admire the things that Iñárritu has to say and the passion with which he says it.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for general audiences to accept this film is the character development. The protagonist comes across as somewhat pompous, but thankfully, given that the movie is so self-aware, it works. The existential journey he faces is surprisingly relatable despite the fact that the character is otherwise meant to feel distant.
It definitely helps that Daniel Giménez Cacho gives a performance that is absolutely astounding. Iñárritu asks him to do some absolutely insane things as part of his performance, and he manages to pull off both the comedic and dramatic moments with grace. There are some strong performers in the supporting cast as well, but this is very much Cacho’s show.
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is Iñárritu’s most idiosyncratic film yet, and while its bizarre nature will alienate most audiences, those audiences that connect with it will really connect with it. It’s a hilarious, ethereal cinematic experience the likes of which only Iñárritu could make.
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is now playing in theaters and streams on Netflix beginning December 16.