SUNDANCE ’20 – ‘High Tide’ Cranks Up The Anxiety and Frustration of Being Woman Losing Control

A woman’s world is a perpetual state of horror. Women know all too well that our bodies are objectified and commodified before we can get a chance to show any interest in, or objection to that. In Verónica Chen’s High Tide we watch the increasingly terrifying and absurd manner in which men disregard any and all signs that women are not interested in being dominated.

Laura (Gloria Carrá) is a successful upper-middle-class woman living in a gorgeous beach house with wall to wall windows. She is having renovations done in her home, and naturally, she becomes attracted to and sleeps with one of the workers, Weisman (Jorge Sesán). Despite being married, she is an independent woman with complete control of her body and mind, she makes a choice to sleep with a man who seems more eager to get to know her body than her mind. However, she lets that slide as she clearly just wants to sleep with him. Then everything goes to hell. After sleeping with the boss his workers become increasingly predatory towards Laura in his absence, seemingly seeing her decision to sleep with Weisman as a green light to act upon their urges to invade not only her personal space, but her home. 

Chen’s film is a long and languid exploration at the suffocatingly frustrating situations women must contend with. The men are rather one-dimensional and Laura’s choices don’t seem very well thought out, but the core message is very clear. Once you become nothing more than something to be dominated, there is no real way of winning or getting out of the situation without some rather drastic measures.

At times the film becomes rather repetitive in its attempts to paint the men as these predatory fiends, and there is something rather icky about how these men are clearly not in the same socio-economic class as Laura. There several points at which it feels like the set up is that this poor defenceless white woman is being preyed upon by these brown savages. And, as time goes on in the film that ickiness is prolonged. If the casting was any different the core of the film would remain the same, but with the stereotypical connotations.

Chen channels that unnerving feeling of knowing that strangers are in such close proximity to you and are seemingly unstoppable. Laura is trapped in psychological warfare that is all too familiar and aggravating. The tension rises and rises until it cannot rise any more, and as a viewer, you want to throw up your hands and scream, “Is this all worth it? Fire these men!”. It should be said that the renovations are for a BBQ pit, a thing rich people actually care to have. The interesting thing about this power struggle is the moral concessions the woman makes to regain the power and control in a situation with men. Laura is very much a victim, but she does cross a line in becoming the victimiser. Again, you will wonder out loud if it is even worth it. Was Wiesman worth it?

Despite being longer than it needs to be, the film perfectly exemplifies an everyday experience that is a nightmare. Chen and our lead Carrá have a real knack at getting that feeling of frustration just right.

High Tide premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 27th

by Ferdosa Abdi

Ferdosa Abdi (she/her) is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick

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