Rarely has my appraisal of a film changed so much upon realizing who played the lead roles.
“Our Time,” an unusual, three-hour rumination on bull ranching, poetry and sophisticated living has at its center the emotional thin ice stemming from a so-called open marriage. It is written and directed by Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas, and stars Reygadas and Natalia López, his wife. Reygadas isn't really an actor (he's never had a lead role in a feature-length film) and this is the first time López, a film editor, has appeared on screen. Reygadas plays a man who gets off watching his wife sleep with other men, and in “Our Time” we see a lot of López doing just that.
How do you say “what the hell?” in Spanish?
Call it bravery or call it unwittingly roping the audience into a personal kink, but once you put the gossip column aspect of “Our Time” aside, it is still a whopper of a movie. The outdoor imagery is breathtaking, and the lengthy run time allows for an expansive overview of the ins-and-outs of ranching. Trouble comes when a gringo horse whisperer (Phil Burgers) leaves the ranch and Esther (López) travels with him to Mexico City. She reports back that she's slept with him, which isn't a big deal in itself, but it's the way she does it that troubles Juan (Reygadas).
Without anyone saying so, both parties know that this time it is different, and the rest of the film is spent not-dealing with that. The distractions include a lengthy visit to a symphony (with a not-quite-explained emphasis on the timpani player) and aerial views from the countryside to the city at night. There's also a meditative journey through the inner workings of an SUV in the rain set to Genesis' “The Carpet Crawlers.”
Bundle all this strangeness and you've still only scratched the surface of why this is fascinating, but “Our Time” is a movie with wide goalposts for haters. Reygadas, whose previous films include Cannes Jury Prize winner “Silent Light,” exists in the higher echelon of art house, and this movie screams “I am an important artiste who aches, come watch my wife have sex with other men and weep with me!” It would be too easy, though, to merely brush this off as outrageous ego. This is definitely one to see for yourself and then argue about, just hopefully not with your spouse.