Too Late to die young
by megan whitham
Set in Chile during the summer of 1990, Dominga Sotomayor Castillo’s Too Late to Die Young (Tarde Para Morir Joven) tells the story of a community of artistic off-gridders, particularly chronicling the maturation of Clara, aged ten, and the tumultuous coming of age of Sofia and Lucas, both aged sixteen.
First and foremost, Too Late To Die Young is visually and sonically stunning. The film’s visual detailing - which includes meticulously designed bohemian sets, breathtaking scenery, and incredibly realistic, historically accurate costuming, all of which are steeped in a naturalistic, washed out colour palette - is so perfectly suited to its subject matter; It is difficult to imagine the film any other way. Yet, the film’s visual excellence lies not only in its details, but also in how those details are captured. The delicate lighting perfectly complements the film’s muted colour palette, though at times I found the otherworldly, mystical camera movement to be slightly heavy-handed. The stationary shots are expertly composed masterpieces due to Castillo’s ingenious camera placement and artful balance of colour and light.
However, as mentioned earlier, Too Late To Die Young is not only a feast for the eyes, but also one for the ears. The film’s soundtrack is superb, comprised of synth driven pop and rock from the 1980s that bolsters an overall sense of nostalgia and supports the themes of childhood and loss of innocence. In addition to its soundtrack, Too Late To Die Young also features rich diegetic music played by the off-gridders in brief yet unbelievably poignant performances.
Unfortunately, despite Too Late To Die Young’s artistic excellence, I found its story to be unengaging and thus initially unsatisfying. My general discontent with the film was not due to its slow pacing, although it was certainly unhurried, I rarely felt scenes dragged on unnecessarily. Nor did I feel uninterested in the characters, as I did care and feel for them, particularly Lucas. Ultimately, what caused me to disengage from the film was its plot, as I predicted the film’s outcome from quite early on, making the entire plot feel tired and trite.
Yet, now a few days after watching the film, I find its predictability to be its best feature, surpassing the realism and artistic splendor of its visuals and sound, as it captures the inevitability of the loss of innocence. I expected the film to present me with a portrayal of disillusionment from the inside perspective of naïve children and young adults, viscerally charting the pains of love and loss in the tradition of films like Eighth Grade and Captain Fantastic. I was instead offered a coming of age film told from a more omniscient perspective, which, while in the theatre felt tedious, upon reflection made it all the more moving, as it makes the bitter pill of disenchantment much more difficult to swallow. With that in mind, Too Late To Die Young takes on a new life to match its vibrant artistry, proving to be a movie that will stay with me longer than I initially expected.
Too Late To Die Young is screening at the IFI until the 30th of May.