PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


'Una Noche' Is Admirable for Its Effort, but Not for Its Intention

Director Lucy Mulloy proves that she is nothing but a tourist who went to an exotic land, got the best out of it, and then went back to her own creature comforts.

Una Noche

Director: Lucy Mulloy
Cast: Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, Javier Núñez Florián, Dariel Arrechaga
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Rated: NR
US Release Date: 2013-12-24

Director Lucy Mulloy spent several months in Havana, Cuba researching what would become her debut feature film, Una Noche. The British born filmmaker (her father is acclaimed animator Phil Mulloy) who went to school in both the UK and New York City, was drawn to the richness of Cuban culture and spent her time learning Spanish and martial arts while she wrote the screenplay for her film and worked with a cast of untrained actors. To say that her determination is nothing if not admirable would be an offense, but for all the effort she put into the film (hurricanes and tropical storms threatened the production, not to mention it’s a story about unsatisfied Cubans living under the communist regime), the final result is a rather lackluster film that pretends not to be politicizing, but works out like anti-communist propaganda out of the '60s.

The story is simple. Raul (Dariel Arrechaga) is a young man who dreams of leaving Havana and moving to Miami where he will have every opportunity he’s been denied throughout his life. He’s trying hard to convince his best friend, and fellow co-worker at a restaurant, Elio (Javier Núñez Florián) to take the trip with him, but he remains unconvinced because he doesn’t want to leave his twin sister Lila (Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre) behind. Then one day, Elio is accused of assaulting a tourist -- something we come to understand is the worst crime one can commit in Cuba -- and he is forced to leave. The plot follows these three characters over the one fatidic day in which their lives are forever turned upside down.

Mulloy received unprecedented access to shooting in Havana and her camera captures the city’s vibrant spirit. Shot in 35mm, the film exudes a warm beauty that contrasts beautifully with the darkness of the story being told. But Una Noche has several major issues, most of which seem connected to its director’s own world views (Mulloy also wrote the screenplay). The first and most obvious is her antipathy towards the regime.

Elaborating on its pros and cons would be better left to a political discussion, but all art in a way is political and trying to deliver an apolitical film in one of the world’s most controversial countries is nonsensical. Mulloy judges the characters who want to stay behind and gives them condescending dialogues and plot twists, she looks down on anyone who doesn’t want to take an uncertain journey towards the United States, including Lila, whom she portrays as a woman too simple for words. As she is bullied in school by her older classmates, Lila becomes a cliché, you half expect her to turn into Carrie and kill everyone in her school. She prizes her virginity and despite the attention of men, she seems devoted to keeping her virtue and as such she’s the only character granted complete absolution in Mulloy’s screenplay.

Lila narrates the film letting us know that Mulloy found the compassion to grant her a future, something she denies most of the other characters. The narration is dull and pointless -- it tries to be poetic but more often than not is laughable in its “complex simplicity” -- and never contributes anything to the film that the actors aren’t already doing with their great work (the cast is truly a marvel to watch).

The second issues is the way in which Mulloy deals with sex, which in a way is related to her punishing characters with overflowing libidos. The film features fellatio, random nudity and one disturbing scene in which Raul’s hormones lead him to be “punished” as he fondles a woman in the street only to realize she has an erection.

The director turns Raul especially into a man who can’t control his passions. He is desired by Elio and sparks a strange feeling within Lila, his uncontrollable sexual hunger is what gets him in trouble in the first place. Una Noche is filled with scenes in which we are told that sex is bad and will most likely eat your life up; an older woman dying of AIDS is photographed morbidly and several characters stress the dangers of HIV as if we were watching an after school special. It’s no coincidence that Mulloy places two almost chaste characters as heroes of her story, she even ends up offering one of them as sacrifice to prove that virtue pleases her version of worth.

Una Noche remains an interesting experiment because we realize how little someone can change after living in a foreign environment. Mulloy’s work is admirable for its effort but not for its intention. She proves that she is nothing but a tourist who went to an exotic land, got the best out of it and then went back to her own creature comforts.

The film is presented in a bare bones DVD edition containing nothing other than a trailer as a bonus feature.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.