Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- A taut, stylish drama brimming with heated sex and illicit desire, Ricardo de Montreuil's "Mancora" represents a noteworthy sophomore feature from the Peruvian director.

The film's appealing cast, alluring locations and fluent visual style comprise distinct assets for a specialty distributor capable of following up on the boxoffice accomplishments of de Montreuil's 2006 debut feature, "La Mujer de mi Hermano," released domestically by Lionsgate.

Moody 21-year-old Santiago "Santi" Pautrat (Jason Day) snaps out of his smoldering self-absorption when his father -- a faded pop singer -- jumps off a bridge to his death, leaving his son wracked with guilt.

Santi blames himself for not spending more time with his dad, and things only worsen when he flunks his economics studies at university and his girlfriend breaks off their relationship.

Losing his job is the final straw. With few ties to keep him in Lima, Santi plans a road trip north to the beach town of Mancora. The arrival of his attractive older stepsister Ximena (Elsa Pataky), a photographer from New York whom he hasn't seen since their mother died five years before, and her wealthy, petulant husband Inigo (Enrique Murciano) force Santi to revise his solo getaway plan and the trio set out together in his dad's old Mercedes sedan.

Ximena and Inigo's rocky relationship feeds Inigo's petty jealousy over the closeness between Ximena and Santi. Tensions gradually build with nasty comments until Ximena impetuously decides to leave with Santi en route to surf a famous beach praised by Batu (Phellipe Haagensen), a hitchhiker they pick up along the way. The pair continues on to laid-back Mancora with Batu, who invites them to a street carnival where Santi is drawn into a drunken brawl with a local hard case after his girlfriend makes a public pass at Santi.

Following their night of heavy drinking, Santi and Ximena end up on a beach where they are forced to confront the sexual tension building between them, fueled by significant glances and shared intimacy. Inigo's unexpected arrival in Mancora further aggravates the siblings' complicated situation, as they all set off on a binge of ill-advised relentless partying that irrevocably strains their already frayed relations.

The attractive international cast, anchored by Day's intense channeling of Santi's personal demons, delivers solid support for the colorful if occasionally overheated script by Oscar Torres, Angel Ibarguren and Juan Luis Nugent, particularly Pataky as the perilously conflicted Ximena.

The film's energetic pacing, proficient camerawork and broad-minded approach allow de Montreuil to balance the foreboding that overshadows the narrative with a sense of expectant possibility, though the open-ended conclusion may prove perplexing for some.

Hispafilms, Napoli pictures
Director: Ricardo de Montreuil
Screenwriters: Oscar Torres, Angel Ibarguren, Juan Luis Nugent
Producer: Diego Ojeda
Executive producers: Antonio Gijon, Enrique Murciano
Director of photography: Leandro Filloy
Production designer: Miguel Angel Alvarez
Music: Angelo Milli
Editors: Luis Carballar, Ricardo de Montreuil
Santiago Pautrat: Jason Day
Ximena: Elsa Pataky
Inigo: Enrique Murciano
Batu: Phellipe Haagensen
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating