Years ago, a troubled Chilean woman strapped her legs onto her motorbike and drove it into the Rio Cruces. Now, as the river suffers through another man-made fish kill, as the bees are dying off and environmental protests spread, she bursts through the surface, covered in mud, and sets out to make silent contact with the family she left behind.
“The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future” is a poignant, poetic parable about the environment, sad yet hopeful story set mostly on the family dairy farm, with the once suicidal Magdalena (Mía Maestro) making her way back to the place where everyone knew her and knows that she’s dead.
Alfredo Castro plays the widowed husband who is hospitalized in shock at spying her through the window of an electronics shop. His shock might be physical as well as mental. Magdalena’s presence turns electronic devices on and makes them go a bit haywire.
Leonor Varela is her brain surgeon daughter, the one puzzling out what happened to her father, and when she meets her, what her dead mother wants.
A single mother of two, Cecilia’s got enough on her plate, taking an “I can’t even…” approach to her transgender teen Tomas (Enzo Ferrada Rosati), impatiently asking “How long is this stage going to last?”
Not a “stage,” Mom. Not a stage.
Everything is set up to come to a head at the old family dairy farm, where the viewer picks up on just how unnatural it is to impregnate animals, remove their calves and take all the mothers’ milk to sell.
Director and co-writer Francisca Alegría dabbles in that Latin literary device “magical realism” for “La vaca que Canto’ una Cancion Hacia del Futuro.” It’s a cautionary tale in which the cattle don’t literally sing, but to those who can hear, they’re the source of a mournful hymn (in Spanish with English subtitles), “Is the end nigh?”
Maestro and Varela are the soul and heart — respectively — of this film, one giving it a speechless urgency, the other bringing a woman of science’s common sense pathos and rising alarm.
The film flirts with being lyrical, here and there, beautiful even. But those sequences are but interludes in a quiet, almost plodding narrative designed to bring Magdalena back to her family, and for that family, surgeon, children and dairy farmers, to figure out why she’s come back.
And the cryptic inclusion of a narcissistic gay teen can be interpreted a lot of ways.
It’s still a lovely film with a timely message. Now, if only all those eco-protesters didn’t show up at rallies on smoky motorbikes…
Rating: unrated, nudity, sexuality, animal deaths
Cast: Mía Maestro, Leonor Varela, Enzo Ferrada Rosati, Marcial Tagle and Alfredo Castro.
Credits: Directed by Francisca Alegría, scripted by Francisca Alegría, Fernanda Urrejola and Manuela Infante A Kino Lorber release.
Running time: 1:33