Tótem. 2023. Mexico/Denmark/France. Directed by Lila Avilés. North American Premiere. In Spanish; English subtitles. 95 min.
In the enormously poignant follow-up to her international breakthrough, The Chambermaid (a selection of ND/NF 2019), director Lila Avilés nestles in with one family over the course of a single, meaningful day. Tótem is told largely from the perspective of 7-year-old Sol (the marvelously naturalistic Naíma Sentíes), as her mother (Montserrat Marañón) and extended relatives prepare for the birthday party of the girl’s father (Mateo Garcia). As the hours wear on, building to an event both anticipated and dreaded, the fragile bonds and unsure future of the family become ever clearer. Avilés confirms her formidable skill at expressing the subtlest contours of her characters’ inner lives in this emotionally expansive and affecting drama.