Melina León weaves events and references from throughout Peru’s tumultuous 1980s into a feature debut that hauntingly renders the era’s political and economic anxieties through an intensely personal lens. Song Without a Name follows Georgina and Leo, who move from the mountains to Lima to give their unborn child a better chance. Immediately after birth, however, the child disappears – and no authority in the city, beset by populist politics and Marxist terror cells, is interested in helping. León, the daughter of a reporter who covered the abductions on which the film is based, focuses tightly on one such woman’s experience and the journalist who joins her hopeless search.

The film’s black-and-white visuals are its most striking quality. Its 4:3 aspect ratio tunnels in on the viewpoints of each character followed, immersing viewers fully in their world and struggles. The boxy framing also creates a claustrophobia that highlights the city’s unique threats, taking away peripheral vision of what is down each staircase and around each corner.

Pamela Mendoza’s haunting performance as Georgina emphasises her almost complete solitude in this strange, scary place. Watching her shuffle through Lima’s streets, exhausted by her pregnancy and then by the loss of her child, is a stark reminder of the humanity lost in upheavals. As the journalist Pedro, who risks his safety and privacy in his search for Georgina’s baby, Tommy Párraga is a measured, sympathetic presence. Song Without a Name’s weakness, however, is its ending, which lacks dramatic catharsis while underplaying the frustrating lack of closure characterising the real-life narrative.

Song Without a Name is a beautifully shot and viscerally acted drama capturing one of modern Peru’s most divisive epochs. While its rushed final act may lose impact, its tangible sense of loss is a blunt reminder of history’s lack of distance.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Pamela Mendoza, Tommy Párraga, Lucio Rojas, Maykol Hernández, Lidia Quipse

DIRECTOR: Melina León

WRITERS: Melina León, Michael J. White

SYNOPSIS: Georgina and Leo leave their home in the Andes to seek a better life for their child in Lima, but the baby is stolen, and the authorities are indifferent.