Noise 2023 Movie Review
We meet Julia (Julieta Egurrola) in extreme close-up. She has an expressive, but weary face. Nine months ago, her 25-year-old daughter Gertrudis went missing. Ger’s life was just beginning. She was on vacation with friends; she was there one moment, gone the next. Understandably, it put Julia in a tailspin. Interactions with authorities only adds to the nightmare. She and Ger’s father Arturo (Arturo Beristain) arrive at the police station to potentially ID Ger’s body, but there’s some confusion – the body doesn’t have a forearm tattoo like Ger has. The associate dealing with them is rude and inattentive. They meet the new, third prosecutor on the case, who seems distracted, or overworked, or dispassionate.
At home, Arturo confesses: He wished the body was Ger’s. At least they’d know. They’re imprisoned in the limbo of uncertainty. Julia gets a tattoo just like Ger’s. She attends a support group whose members sit in a circle and share their emotions and embroider tributes to their missing family members. Sometimes she stares into the mirror, as if searching for something. Once, she walks by a mirror on the street and the angle of the shot and the angle of the mirror makes it look as if she just disappears.
What happened to Ger is shockingly common in Mexico. Young women are kidnapped and either trafficked or killed by affiliates of drug cartels, and the police and government are either corrupt, inept, indifferent, underfunded, turning a blind eye or some combination thereof. It happens so often, young women gather in the streets in protest. Julia watches as they shout and run and cover the square with protest art. She hits her vape cartridge and a young, friendly protester asks if she’ll share. She does.
At the support group, Julia meets Abril (Teresa Ruiz, Father Stu), a journalist writing about the kidnapping epidemic. Abril takes her to a lawyer who might be able to help them find Ger. They get a lead and take a cross-country bus to a police station; they ask to see the morgue, and they’re welcome to, except it’s been broken for months. A cop takes them to a semi trailer parked beneath an overpass. It’s a stacked bunkhouse full of bodies. Julia walks in and gags. Afterward, she stands at an ATM and can smell death on her clothing. She withdraws a wad of cash and hands it to the cop, who says, hey, at least you didn’t find her. Next we see Julia amidst a surreal nightmare: She’s outside, in the sun, at the foot of a hill, and she opens her mouth to scream and nothing comes out, only silence.
Julia’s journey finds her in brothels and shelters, poking through fields with search parties, climbing down into abandoned bunkers to discover scraps of clothing and charred remains of women who were murdered, dumped and burned. She finds a second family among the many, many people searching for answers to the same questions that torment her; they urge her to join them as they listen to music and dance, a moment of necessary lightness while investigators nearby lay out scorched bones and personal effects for examination. In another scene, she walks down a dark street at night, and senses a threat from a nearby truck, and whether it’s an intimidating presence – perhaps spurred by Abril’s viral reporting on Julia’s quest – or just a passerby is left unresolved.
The director Beristain carefully balances Noise’s contextual and emotional fodder, honing a powerful portrait of systemic corruption, moral rot and the anguish of the powerless. One of the keys to the film’s absorbing and powerful drama is Egurrola’s performance, which exists in the ethereal space between Julia’s desire for closure and a need to do something besides wallow in her grief, something constructive, something within a community instead of isolation. Julia’s doing her damnedest to hold onto hope in spite of the numbing tedium of her pain, although her journey is sometimes mind-bogglingly harrowing; it leads to an enthralling final sequence, a bizarre and horrific reverie executed with considerable technical precision by Beristain. It’s a visually arresting moment, but emotionally, it’s frustratingly ambiguous. It’s also all too fitting.