Watching Everything Else is a suffocating experience, but that’s entirely by design. Natalia Almada’s portrait of an enigmatic and lonely woman, undeniably reminiscent of Chantal Akerman’s groundbreaking Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975), follows Doña Flor (Adriana Barraza) working a dull job in a government office in Mexico City. Almada’s camera is eerily still, and transitions are made with abrupt cuts. Doña is frequently obscured by doorframes, and the camera lingers on seemingly mundane imagery, such as a pair of stockings being washed in the sink, longer than we might expect.
Like Akerman, Almada makes a bold statement by refusing to flinch. Not a lot happens — in the traditional sense, at least — in Everything Else. The TV in Doña’s living room constantly reports crimes, and in one particularly bleak passage (which some viewers might take as a cheap shock) her cat dies and she purposefully takes it, swaddled in a bag, to deposit in the dumpster. It’s up to us to work out what she’s feeling at any given moment, and when we see her at work, reciting the depressing boilerplate language of bureaucracy, she seems like a cipher.
Almada deserves credit for creating a portrait of a character so often passed over onscreen: Doña is a woman in her sixties with a decidedly unglamorous life. But the relentless darkness here (both figuratively and literally — some of the shots of Doña in her home are shrouded in blackness) often proves more alienating than illuminating.
Directed by Natalia Almada
Opens May 4, Cinema Village
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