Cannes, Directors' Fortnight

A boy is dragged to the mountainous isolation of Patagonia by his bipolar mother, newly released from being "locked up." The harrowing story of Alba, a young woman with a devastating emotional illness (bipolar disorder), and the unfathomable havoc she wreaks on the life of her young son, this Directors' Fortnight entrant is a gripping human drama. A skillful treatment of a severe psychological disorder, "Salamandra" will win recognition on the festival circuit.

Filmmaker Pablo Aguero has fleshed up a true human horror story, distilling from Alba's hyperactive mania the calamities she wreaks not only on herself but the wounds she unknowingly perpetrates on her devoted son Inti. Carting him off to an isolated area where ex-hippies, crazies, and the truly dangerous subsist in the backwaters, Alba's irrational floundering jeopardizes her son's life.

In essence, "Salamandra" is a riveting story of survival, as the young boy must endure not only his mother's mania but fend for himself in the midst of a very scary and dangerous social setting. It's a horror-of-personality story, carved and gutted from a mother-son relationship.

As the addled and tormented mother, Dolores Fanzi is mesmerizing: Alba is a truly monstrous character, yet, as Aguero's sympathetic and powerful film shows, she is truly a victim of her disease.