Fever Dream (Distancia de rescate), languid horror

María Valverde in Fever Dream

Fever Dream ( Distancia de rescate) arrived on Netflix just in time for the Halloween horror season. This South American film is a slow-moving, surreal, horror story about motherhood and environmental destruction. There are some spoilers ahead.

Directed by Claudia Llosa, Fever Dream ( Distancia de rescate) is adapted from a novel by Samanta Schweblin. From its slightly off-putting beginning to its confounding ending, this film is both compelling and challenging.

María Valverde in Fever Dream

Amanda (María Valverde) and her daughter Nina arrive in a small town surrounded by wheat fields. They are spending the summer there on vacation.

Throughout the film, Amanda has a voice over conversation with David. Through flashbacks, time jumps, and reminders from David to notice the details and pay attention, the story unfolds in a disjointed but frightening way.

Dolores Fonzi in Fever Dream

David is a kid. Carola (Dolores Fonzi) is David’s mother. Carola arrives on Amanda’s doorstep her first day there with buckets of water. She says the tap water isn’t safe to drink.

Amanda and Carola quickly form a friendship. Their sudden closeness and the increasingly strange vibe between them adds to the building feeling of danger in the film.

Carola tells Amanda a story about when David was three. A horse escaped from their corral. Carola and David followed it to the river. While Carola was putting a harness on the horse to take him home, little David was playing in the water. By the next morning the horse was dying and David was very ill.

The town had no doctor. So Carola took David to “the green house,” where a woman could perform a soul transfer to save David. The magic known as a soul transfer means that David’s self was divided in half and half of it was distributed to some other individual. With only half the sickness inside him, David was strong enough to recover. But someone else’s half now occupied his body.

From its slightly off-putting beginning to its confounding ending, this film is both compelling and challenging.

Since then, Carola believed that David is not the boy he once was and had become a monster. David clarifies this story to Amanda in the ongoing voice over conversation between the two of them.

Amanda talks about the bond of motherhood, or distance to rescue (Distancia de rescate), she feels tethering her to Nina like a thread. With David urging Amanda (and us) to pay attention and notice the details, the truth is finally understood.

I’ve revealed almost all the story, but won’t spoil the ending.

This is an unusual film. The story is different from anything you’ve seen before. It’s sometimes hard to understand and will keep you thinking long after it’s over. The messages about the bonds of motherhood and the dangers of destroying the land and water for profit are revealed like a puzzle. I found myself asking, “What in the world?” often, but I couldn’t look away.

Poster for Fever Dream

Take a look at the trailer.

If you decide to give this film a try, be patient with it. I almost switched it off early on, but I’m glad I kept watching.

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