Friday, June 21, 2024


THE STORYDayana lives an abusive marriage with former police officer Elias, owner of Motel Destino. When 21-year-old Heraldo finds himself at the motel after messing up a hit and going on the run, Dayana finds herself intrigued and lets him stay. As the two navigate a dance of power, desire and liberation, a dangerous plan for freedom emerges.

THE CASTIago Xavier, Nataly Rocha & Fábio Assunção

THE TEAMKarim Aïnouz (Director/Writer), Wislan Esmeraldo & Mauricio Zacharias (Writers)


Two men plus one woman equals trouble. And when it’s two men and one woman in relentless hot weather? Yowza. “Motel Destino” is a fine attempt by Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz to bring his own unique sensibilities to the erotic thriller. This popular genre amongst film fans had its last great burst in the eighties, with movies like “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Body Heat.” Modern life might have rendered society increasingly sterile and sex-free, but not in the setting of Aïnouz’s latest, where how people use their bodies to make trouble, good and bad, is very thoroughly explored.

Heraldo (Iago Xavier) is a young man with big dreams and little direction. He also owes some money to a scary drug dealer/painter named Bambina, who promises to release him from his debt if he shakes down a Frenchman who owes money to her. The night before, Heraldo goes out clubbing, meets a nice lady, and they book into a motel to hook up and have sex. It’s a wipe-down place where the doors lock from the outside, and there’s a hatch in the wall. Heraldo wakes up the following day to discover his new lady friend has taken the cash from his wallet and left without paying, meaning he’s stuck by himself with little to no resources at his disposal. The motel owner looks at him through the hatch and decides to let him leave his ID on the promise he’ll return with the money he owes her, so Heraldo runs out in a panic to take care of business. Things go so badly, and Heraldo is very soon back at the motel, with a gun hidden in his bag, to beg the owner, Dayana (Nataly Rocha), to let him hide out for a while. He’s good at fixing things and working for his keep. Dayana is sympathetic toward him, but her much older husband Elias (Fábio Assunção) isn’t until Heraldo repairs an air-conditioning unit he thought would need to be replaced. They make space in a shed in the back for Heraldo’s things, give him a hammock to sleep in, and set him to work. And not that the typically drunk Elias notices much, but Dayana and Heraldo can’t stop looking at each other as tensions and the heat externally and internally begin to rise for all three.

Elias is a selfish, incurious, and unkind man who treats Dayana as a possession, though she has had some good reasons for tolerating this unhappy treatment until now. Heraldo has had minimal schooling and is nearly alone in the world, but he doesn’t miss much, and his willingness to do the right thing is a complete surprise. “Motel Destino” is the opposite of many other erotic thrillers, where that willingness to help a lady in trouble follows the haze of desire. Here, it’s the other way around – Heraldo’s willingness to look after Dayana attracts him to her. And for Dayana, it slowly becomes a mutual attraction. It is also a Karim Aïnouz film, meaning there’s enough gratuitous nudity to power a nuclear plant. Nobody will win any prizes for guessing what happens next, as what follows is pretty predictable, but it’s rare for a film nowadays to be so blunt about the human body and its needs. Most notable is the film’s sound which is used to create mood and drive the plot, even if it is people having noisy, moan-filled sex that soundtracks the daily chores of those at the motel.

Would any antics here happen so easily in a more buttoned-up place? Or did the lousy behavior follow the hot weather? Unanswerable questions, of course, but it would have been better if the movie had tried to answer them. That said, cinematographer Hélène Louvart, who frequently collaborates with Aïnouz and recently shot the equally heated “Disco Boy” and “La Chimera,” does fantastic work ensuring the temperature stays at a fever pitch through his vibrant colors and use of neon lighting. Though it may not bring the genre back to its glory, the sweaty mood of “Motel Destino” will linger more than most and if that doesn’t do it, then the thumping club-like atmosphere of the film’s closing credits will certainly not leave your memory anytime soon.


THE GOOD - The neon-lit cinematography, sound design, and central performances are all effective for Aïnouz's hot and sweaty erotic thriller. The closing credits are a banger.

THE BAD - The story's predictability and lack of substance.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best International Feature


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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The neon-lit cinematography, sound design, and central performances are all effective for Aïnouz's hot and sweaty erotic thriller. The closing credits are a banger.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The story's predictability and lack of substance.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"MOTEL DESTINO"