Sunday, July 14, 2024

“BEACON”

THE STORY – Driven by an overzealous sense of adventure, young sailor Emily quickly runs into trouble when she shipwrecks on a remote island off the coast of South America. She’s rescued by the island’s lone inhabitant, a mysterious light keeper, Ismael. With communications down due to incredibly stormy conditions, they try to work together to ensure each other’s survival, but tension grows once Emily begins to question Ismael’s lack of answers and the bizarre occurrences they encounter as time passes.

THE CAST – Demián Bichir & Julia Goldani Telles

THE TEAM Roxy Shih (Director) & Julio Rojas (Screenwriter)

THE RUNNING TIME – 96 Minutes


The uncertainty of strangers is something we’ve all grown accustomed to fear. Even at young ages, we’re taught not to speak to unknown people as a means to teach our youth about trust. For the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival, director Roxy Shih brought this familiar concept to light in her suspenseful thriller, “Beacon.” Written by Julio Rojas, the film sees a young, adventurous sailor navigate the seas in South America. After a storm causes her to shipwreck, a strange light keeper named Ismael comes to her rescue. An intense story about our paranoia of strangers and their intentions, this stress-inducing thriller boldly confronts human instinct when it comes to survival.

Emily (Julia Goldani Telles) has recently lost her father. She goes on a six-month mission to solo circumnavigate the globe by sea to mourn and celebrate his life. Throughout her journey, she makes video diary logs to capture moments of sentimental value that honor her late father and family of sailors. In between, Emily also rewatches the videos that family and friends have left for her. Clearly, she is surrounded by a support system full of people who genuinely love and believe in her. As she listens to a voice-over message from her grandfather, one note stands out: “There are no dangerous seas, only dangerous sailors.” With just this single line of dialogue, the mood is set, and the suspense takes over, creating a tense atmosphere where danger lurks around the corner.

Just six minutes into the film, director Shih establishes the basis of her plot, and Emily becomes shipwrecked. As Emily briefly comes to consciousness, she sees Ismael (Demián Bichir), the remote island’s lone inhabitant, hovering over her and seemingly praying to a sea God. From here, Shih and Rojas go full steam ahead in executing the thematic elements at play. The first is the typical tension that builds when encountering a stranger in an isolated environment. Emily is already in a vulnerable state emotionally, but after the accident leaves her temporarily impaired, her physicality declines as well. More than capitalizing on the natural mistrust of strangers trope, the script emphasizes that this strange pairing is between an older man and a young woman. This offers an extra level of suspense for viewers, as we’re forced to rely on what we hear. And, similar to Emily, a normal skepticism grows.

As Emily’s questions slowly become answered regarding her rescue, the script’s tone settles into a more relaxed one. Ismael seems to have all the answers regarding radio communications, Emily’s shipwreck, and his eccentric behavior. Oddly enough, Nuno Malo’s harrowing score never lets up and gives us good enough reason to keep our doubts. But, as more mysterious things start to occur, the script falls into the trap of relinquishing any common sense of its lead. As an example, Emily trustingly accepts medicine from Ismael with no follow-up questions asked. The intended result is a brief moment of frustration that confuses us about these character dynamics. However, they are masterfully placed to switch focus on Ismael’s growing paranoias and to toggle our support to this lonely lighthouse keeper.

The exchanges of mistrust and paranoia between Emily and Ismael offer great character studies for the two in troubling circumstances. This growing dynamic also welcomes the second theme at the core of “Beacon,” which is a survival instinct. By now, the film has provided a masterclass in suspense, built on information that gradually reveals itself to the characters. As a turning point, Emily and Ismael begin to undergo further psychological developments due to their individual stances on what is considered the truth. With growing disdain for each other due to a lack of understanding, their behaviors change, and survival mode kicks into full gear. Director Shih naturally pivots her directing style from an intimate, taut affair to an explosively violent confrontation that we’ve been anticipating since the pair met.

A story about the natural mistrust of strangers, “Beacon” is a fascinating examination of the human psyche when paranoia is the underlying enemy at play. Soaked with tension and a nail-biting ambiance, the film is intriguing in how it guides us on a journey of uncertainty when it comes to who we should root for. As Emily, Telles gives a standout performance worthy of recognition. Her ability to fluctuate from content to uneasiness to contempt adds to the inherent hostility waiting to emerge. Bichir gives a perfect performance opposite Telles. His unwavering dedication towards teetering between charm and dubiety is extraordinarily executed. Together, the film’s leads work well off each other, vying for survival by any means necessary. In short, “Beacon” contains both the narrative and performances to leave you in a state of utter shock and awe.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Director Shih builds a suspenseful atmosphere, capitalizing on our natural fears of the unknown. The film boasts solid performances from Julia Goldani Telles and Demian Bichir in a way that will have you switching sides of support.

THE BAD - Sometimes, the script is impractical, especially when the characters don't ask appropriate follow-up questions in circumstances that clearly require them.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Director Shih builds a suspenseful atmosphere, capitalizing on our natural fears of the unknown. The film boasts solid performances from Julia Goldani Telles and Demian Bichir in a way that will have you switching sides of support.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Sometimes, the script is impractical, especially when the characters don't ask appropriate follow-up questions in circumstances that clearly require them.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"BEACON"