TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG is a glowing, warm vision of a rural town in Chile circa 1990. It begins with an opening sequence looking into the backseat of an old car where a young boy rests. Over the duration of the shot, several other people get into the car. In this sequence, we are introduced to the three main characters, Sofia, Lucas, and Clara. This scene sets the time period and tone perfectly. It’s the 1990’s, evident from the children not wearing their seatbelts, the lack of cell phones, and the way the kids are dressed. The shot imitates the leisurely camerawork and the dog days of summer slowness that the movie embodies. From this gorgeous opening shot alone, the movie only gets better.
A group of families spend their summery Christmas in a rural community near the Andes. Isolated from the world, they relax and spend time outside with family and friends. The story follows 16-year-olds Sofia and Lucas as they navigate a rocky casual relationship. Sofia strives to find excitement; she wants to live with her mother in another town and go for long motorcycle rides with bad boys. She has an on-again-off-again romance with Lucas, who moodily plays the guitar and longs for Sofia’s affection. The film also follows 10-year-old Clara, who enlists her neighborhood friends to find her lost dog Frida. The families plan for their big New Year’s Eve party, which features a concert put on by the adults.
Director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo’s (Los Barcos, Mar, Thursday Till Sunday) exceptional direction complements Inti Briones’ (Song Without a Name, In Praise of Freedom) fly-on-the-wall cinematography style. The film is unhurried but never boring, and is always beautiful to look at. The still camerawork echoes the mood of a sweet summer with nothing to do but socialize, sleep, and party.
TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG features Demian Hernández (January First), Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro, Matías Oviedo (Verdades Ocultas), and Andrés Aliaga (Virgen de Copacabana). The acting is fabulous, especially considering several of the main actors are first-timers. The performances are convincing throughout, even young children like Clara.
The music in the film is mainly diegetic, showing how important music is to every day life in the community. It helps cement the teenage angst felt by both Sofia and Lucas, and as the film builds up to a concert, it’s a fitting choice to have so much music.
TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG is one of 2019’s best movies. Every frame of the movie is gorgeous, an ode to a time before smart phones and constant distraction. As a gorgeous coming-of-age drama, TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG absolutely shines.