Directed by Juan Pablo González, Dos Estaciones follows Maria (Teresa Sánchez), a fifty-something owner of a once-successful family-owned business in Mexico. Faced with agricultural problems and the threat of foreign competition, Maria struggles to keep the business afloat.
Set in the highlands of Jalisco, Maria oversees the production of a local tequila brand and has a small yet strong and loyal workforce. There are hints of the company’s former success such as the vast manufacturing equipment and multiple crops of agave plants, and her position and subsequently, her firm, has made her a pillar of the local community. Living mostly on her own with her social circle comprising only a smattering of business associates, she hides her loneliness and subtle concern behind a stoic personality. She is aware of the looming scale of American firms ‘intruding’ on her doorstep, her huge factory is now empty and still due to the lack of activity, and she is facing financial problems and the growing pressure of preserving her family’s legacy.
In his first full-length narrative feature, González adopts a slow pace to highlight the troubles of a middle-aged businesswoman. Unfortunately, this sullen tone makes it hard for audiences to evoke empathy for Maria, especially as her strong-willed nature prevents any passion from emerging. Dos Estaciones‘ sparse dialogue also fails to offer additional insight into the protagonist so the audience is left waiting for anything to happen, especially when Maria’s problems begin to mount. Short interactions with her hairdresser Tatín (Vera) and the introduction of young skilled worker Rafa (Fuentes) offers a glimpse of hope in Maria’s future, not to mention her desire for companionship, but the plot doesn’t offer enough opportunities to fully develop these relationships so any character development becomes lost amid González’s overly artistic direction.
Despite Dos Estaciones‘ lacklustre narrative, Sánchez’s stoic performance effectively plays on her character’s quiet personality and the hubbub of the local close-knit community. Visually, González instils a rich colour palette throughout the film and the energy and chatter through the parties, local companies, and social gatherings bring a rare vibrancy to the monotonous story. In addition, Gerardo Guerra‘s steady cinematography brilliantly highlights the barrenness of the Mexican highlands that emphasises the importance of Maria’s company as a source of income.
Although Dos Estaciones has the necessary elements to form an underdog story, the film doesn’t capitalise on their appeal. The result is an underwhelming and mostly dull quest for survival.
Director: Juan Pablo González; Ilana Coleman, Ana Isabel Fernández (co-screenwriters)
Stars: Teresa Sánchez, Rafela Fuentes, Tatín Vera, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Runtime: 95 minutes