Verónica Chen’s Marea Alta (High Tide) gives us a glimpse into uncomfortable and often ignored themes of gender and class divisions in Latin America.
Laura (Gloria Carrá) has gone to her summer home by the beach to oversee the new barbecue that her and her husband have contracted three men to build.
At the start of the film, we quickly see how Laura and Weisman (Jorge Sesán), the lead contractor, start to get ‘friendly’. Weisman’s tone can be seen as demeaning or flirtatious, depending on how one takes in the scene.
As consenting adults, they seduce each other and spend the night. Weisman leaves in the morning in an effort to avoid being seen by his labourers. Too late however, as Toto and Hueso (Cristian Salguero and Hector Bordoni) have taken notice of what transpired the night before.
Here is where the film continues to shift into more cringe-like tones. Toto and Hueso start to take liberties around the house when Laura is not there. Toto especially, is constantly making rude and derogatory remarks at and about Laura.
In turn, Laura feels she is out of her element. She cannot ‘manage’ the labourers and is forced to remind them of ‘their place’, while she takes shelter behind the glass walls of her summer mansion. Carrá excels as Laura; she truly carries this film.
While all this is happening, Weisman is nowhere to be found. Laura decides not to take her husband’s calls, and tries to fix the situation as she thinks best. The mood is tense and uncomfortable.
By increasing the tension and discomfort as the film progresses, Chen uses light and shadow and tight close-ups to emphasize the differences of class and power at play.
Marea Alta (High Tide) leaves one with a sour taste in the mouth. The way Laura uses her power and money to try to rectify how this simple job escalated out of control makes one uneasy. There is no real resolution here; perhaps that was Chen’s intention overall.
Marea Alta (High Tide) screened as part of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.