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Totem is a 2023 drama film written and directed by Leila Aviles and her second feature project. The story focuses on seven-year-old Sol, who spends the day at her grandfather’s house at a surprise party thrown for her father. As time passes, the rush of preparations subsides – as time passes, tragedy begins to loom

“Totem” differs from many family and funeral dramas in that it observes the adult world from the perspective of an attentive seven-year-old girl. By adopting her perspective, we are immersed in the small world of her family; We watch interactions that are incredibly natural and believable (seriously, some scenes clearly look unscripted, as if someone was filming these people from hiding). The director allows us to capture subtle and subtle nuances by simply delving into the image and focusing on the details. It presents us with a battle between an (almost) helpless man and the unforgiving essence of reality, generational differences, and the pain of longing and loss. It throws us into the whirlpool of family dynamics that teems with life – which is why, apart from loss, there’s also a lot of celebration of the goodness of everyday life. You won’t find such a sensitive look at a group of people so close and so far away at the same time in the latest cinema.

It’s an honest film that tells a poignant and life-affirming story without getting bogged down in sentimentality. Thematically, it is a rich study of characters and family relationships, and a meditation on time, transience, and existence. There is a heart here, there is a soul. Must be.

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