THE STORY – The streets are in chaos during a wedding in a posh neighbourhood in Mexico City. Bride Marianne (Naian Gonzaléz Norvind), frustrated by her family’s refusal to help out a former employee’s ill wife, decides to take the woman to a clinic herself, hoping to get back before the judge arrives to officiate her marriage. She is deterred by the uprising that has spread through the city and given the military an excuse to take over. Capitalizing on this opportunity to further stratify the class system, the authorities round up any member of the upper classes found outside their neighbourhoods, send them to holding cells, and then ransom them back to their families, who are tricked into believing the protesters carried out the kidnappings.
THE CAST – Naian González Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica del Carmen, Fernando Cuautle, Eligio Meléndez & Darío Yazbek
THE TEAM – Michel Franco (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 86 Minutes
By Daniel Howat
Comparisons to reigning Best Picture winner “Parasite” are inevitable when discussing Michel Franco’s film “New Order” (“Nuevo Orden”). Both films comment on the disparity of wealth in their respective countries and depict the chaos that erupts when the classes collide. Oh, and they both feature beautiful parties at a mansion that are each disrupted by shocking bursts of violence. While “New Order” has many similarities to “Parasite,” this Mexican film is much darker and more brutal in its exploration of a dystopian society that feels disturbingly believable.
After quick, ominous flashes of death and destruction, including the evacuation of a hospital, “New Order” begins with a lovely, upscale wedding at a mansion. Beautiful guests drink and dance and laugh, all while clearly guarded well. These scenes are so well crafted as to maintain tension in every moment, even before anything goes wrong. As the country crumbles outside, the rich are having a party.
Soon, a former employee of the family throwing the wedding, Ronaldo (Eligio Meléndez), arrives at the party. He’s an uninvited and unwelcome guest, clearly much poorer than the rest of the partygoers, but he’s there to ask the family for money for his wife’s upcoming heart surgery. It’s an expensive operation, but we get the sense that it’s chump change to this wealthy lot. The reception to Ronaldo is mixed, with the mother of the bride (Lisa Owen) giving some money to get him to leave, but the bride, Marianne (Naian González Norvind), genuinely wants to help. She gives him the money she can, but Ronaldo is kicked out before Marianne can give him all the money he needs. She leaves the party to find him at his home.
Unfortunately for them all, the party is soon invaded by the rioters and chaos ensues. Their initial entrance into the wedding is a thrilling, terrifying sequence that’s captured in one unbroken shot. Perfect direction and timing make each slow movement of the rioters disturbing. The entire film is presented with shocking realism, without even the luxury of a score to enhance the action. It is brutal and only gets darker as the film goes on, much of the drama is filmed in long takes to steep us in each moment.
Throughout this social commentary, Franco doesn’t take the cheap route by painting one side as the heroes or villains. “New Order” doesn’t simply demonize the rich, it highlights depravity in humanity. While character development isn’t deep, we follow characters from various social classes, but all are fighting to rescue their loved ones. Their country is collapsing around them, but there is still some humanity left, hard to find as it might be.
Inevitably, Mexico becomes a police state. Curfews are implemented and citizens must follow strict protocols to simply get to work, always with the military nearby. Franco doesn’t turn away from much of the depravity and abuse that follows either. Marianne, captured while trying to find Rolando, endures plenty of horrors, both physically and mentally. This film is not for the faint of heart, as the darkness of this new order, this new reality, unfolds.
Above all else, “New Order” is provocative. One might expect this to be a straightforward message about wealth disparity and while that is certainly an element at play, this is much deeper than that. Ultimately, Franco’s film doesn’t offer any easy answers to the state of our world. We’re left with the feeling that perhaps a conflict like this is inevitable, but it won’t end well for anyone. In this brilliant and disturbing dystopian thriller, no one wins as the world crashes around them all, rich and poor. “New Order” is a film that won’t be easy to shake off.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – It’s quick and tightly constructed, wasting no time. Well written and bold, even if brutally dark, the film is a vital commentary on wealth, power and society.
THE BAD – This isn’t a pleasant watch by any means and some will be turned off by the depravity and violence.