Artificial Paradises is the elegiac tale of two mismatched Mexican souls at a rundown beach resort who search for a bit of utopia through—and are bonded by—drugs. Luisa (Luisa Pardo) is holed up in a grungy bungalow getting zonked on heroin as groundskeeper Salomón (Salomón Hernández) goes about his daily maintenance work stoned. Their gradual relationship is forged by similar attempts to use narcotics as a means of coping with loneliness, and director Yulene Olaizola juxtaposes their misery with beautifully lush natural landscapes of misty shorelines, expansive ocean horizons, and rolling hills. As her camera peers through walkways and slowly progresses down forested roads, the film creates a haunting sense of people trying to find a way forward in a world at once gorgeous and intimidating. Realistic details abound—as with the offhand, empathetic image of Salomón hanging off his bed wiping his feet together to shake dirt away. Olaizola pans across peeling building facades to subtly enhance her portrait of characters crumbling under the weight of self-destructive habits and solitude—a weight that might only be lifted through the selfless compassion of others.
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