THE YELLOW NIGHT (aka A NOITE AMERLA) marks Ramon Porto Mota’s directorial debut. In this subtle Spanish-language feature, a group of newly-graduated teenagers travel to a beach house on a isolated island off the Brazilian seaside to drink and reminisce about their completed high school careers. However, their carefree enjoyment is hovered by dread and the overwhelming feeling that the place is home to a mysterious, time-warping horror.
Aesthetically, THE YELLOW NIGHT is subtle, yet gorgeous. Sometimes it borrows from Under the Skin, with glimpses of empty, black backdrops and shadowy voids; other moments permeate cool tone shades of blues, purples, and pink lightings. I’m unsure of how the film was shot, (digitally versus film) however, it has a vintage quality to it that is reminiscent of late ‘60s and ‘70s films, which is bold and refreshing. Mota and cinematographer Flora Dias confidently know how to shoot a beautiful film.
The performances from the young ensemble cast are also solid, although no one in particular is a standout. Along with the oft-drawn out monologues and aimless conversations that feel accurate to how teenagers (with too much time to think) speak to each other, each actor presents an authenticity to the material, even when we never get to know any of their characters on a deep-enough basis. One scene in which one of the hurt friends frustratingly throws his phone into the ocean was so well-acted that it almost made me buy into the idea that a Gen. Z kid would ever do such a thing.
…Which leads me to my primary issue with the film: the script. Normally I commend films that force you to spend hours with the characters, as you watch them simply live their lives as people do. But, in this case, the central story feels too vague and meandering, which made me lose interest throughout— especially within a well-directed, but entirely too long of a party scene in which the girls in the group are trying to out-blast other partygoers with their different choice in music that left me pondering its significance. (The action and tiny hint of violence is a nice jolt in an otherwise ultra quiet film, at least.) Suspense comes and goes in waves. The last half hour feels appropriately eerie, but it takes too long to get to that point, and I am still unsure of what exactly happened by the finale. The last frame of the film is intriguing, but entirely too ambiguous. At only 102 minutes, THE YELLOW NIGHT feels like a longer, more taxing experience at times.
Fans of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s The Endless might find something to latch onto with THE YELLOW NIGHT, as this also deals with trippy time dimensions and getting “lost in time,” as one foreshadowing song lyric suggests. However, with a fatigued script and obscurely suggested metaphors about young people getting too caught up in technology, THE YELLOW NIGHT is not quite strong enough to hold interest in an otherwise plethora of interesting, existential time-traveling horror films.