Too Late To Die Young

Demian Hernandez stars as a teenage girl living in a Chilean commune in "Too Late to Die Young."

Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo’s “Too Late to Die Young” is set in 1990 after the fall of dictator Augusto Pinochet, when the country was just becoming acclimated to democracy again.

But the political developments of the time are a world way from the languid action of “Too Late,” which takes place in an idyllic hippie community deep in the forest. And yet such a community has its own rules and restrictions, which chafe against one young woman looking for rebellion.

“Too Late to Die Young” has its Madison premiere at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St., as part of its Spotlight Cinema series. The screening is free for museum members and $7 for all others.

Sofia (Demian Hernandez) is the rebellious young woman, resentful of her father (Andres Aliaga) for dragging the family off to the commune. She misses her mother back in the city, and yearns for the bustle of urban life. In one iconic shot, we see her smoking a cigarette in the bath, the smoke mingling with the steam, as Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” plays on the soundtrack.

Sofia is the epitome of teenage restlessness. She gets involved into something of a love triangle between an adoring younger neighbor and an older man who comes to town. Hernandez is magnetic, suggesting Sofia’s resentment and loneliness with a glare and a sullen drag on a cigarette.

Much of “Too Late” is plotless, as Sotomayor is content to sit back and watch the activities of the commune and its characters. The films of legendary Chilean director Lucrecia Martel, especially "La Cienaga," seem like a clear influence, although that film looked at the moral rot of a wealthy family. "Too Late to Die Young" is the flip side, looking at the frayed bonds within a family living on society's margins.

Living in paradise takes a lot of work, as Sofia’s father contends with broken water pipes and other hardships. But it does seem idyllic at times, with moments of joy, such as a New Year’s Eve party in which a local teen band rocks out happily while the parents smoke pot and smile.

But paradise can’t last, and the commune suffers a blow of biblical proportions in the final act. The final shot, of the family dog running away, underscores the folly of trying to impose your own way of life on someone else. Sooner or later, the lure of freedom is irresistible.

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Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.