Director: Lucy Mulloy
Stars: Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, Javier Núñez Florián, Dariel Arrechada
Release Company: IFC Films
MPAA Rating: NR
Shot in neo-realistic style, Una Noche (One Night) paints an unforgettable portrait of life in Havana--away from scenic tourist haunts and into the back streets inhabited by the poor. With tutelage from Spike Lee, NYU film student Lucy Mulloy follows her passions to craft her first feature in the Havana that she knows intimately. This is the seedy side of the city, filled with real people preoccupied with daily survival.
Deliberately, the filmmaker insisted on jumping through the necessary hoops of Cuba's socialistic bureaucracy to shoot on location. These are local non-professional "actors" in every frame, shot inside real homes and shops--crowded apartments, cluttered black market bartering locales, beckoning prostitutes on the street. So, in essence, Havana becomes the primary character of the film. It's the harrowing authenticity that resonates so strongly, and that alone is enough to recommend Mulloy's labor of love.
A feature drama must tell a story, and this coming of age tale tackles Cuba's unique issues directly and develops with great energy and intensity.
The narrative revolves around three teens, told through the eyes of Lila (Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre), who has been firmly attached to her twin brother Elio (Javier Núñez Florián) since birth. Innocent young Lila is teased by her peers as a tomboy (with hairy arms) but more likely due to economic class (she doesn't use nice "tourist" soap). Lila copes by taking Taekwondo classes, but mostly by hanging with her brother and his buddies as much as possible. She can't imagine being separated from him.
It worries her that lately, he has been going off on his own to exclusively hang with co-worker Raul (Dariel Arrechada). She recalls that Elio had done this once before at age 7 when he became obsessed with a neighbor boy, but she remains naive about possible sexuality issues. After all, she had seen her strong brother slam their father against the wall when questioned about his manhood.
Outrageously handsome, Raul habitually relies on his sex appeal for getting what he wants. He dreams of rafting 90 miles to Miami to join his father and follow the American dream. This requires materials, which means knowing the right people in Havana. Making out with the right girl translates into obtaining necessary inner tubes and lucrative tourist loot. Tubing to Miami remains a common pipe dream for many Cubans, so stashing lumber, motors, and compasses are routines that fuel hope. Suddenly, rafting to Miami becomes urgent when Raul faces an assault charge.
Acting impulsively, the trio of teens fashion a raft and take off for Miami. Each has a different reason for boarding, but they all face a most dangerous night ... and must struggle to survive. But we've already witnessed that struggling is a daily reality in Havana.
Note: A real life drama took place at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival when it was learned that the two young leads of Una Noche had defected and remained in Miami. According to an NPR interview with the film director, the couple is now expecting a baby.