Rita & Carolina in their grandmothers bed in De lo Mio (2019)
Silence has no one true form. Its body is shaped by a lack of presence of explicit communication, allowing for any number of meanings. In terms of cinema, silence is often molded to fit whatever emotion the filmmaker is trying to convey to the audience. De lo Mio (2019), directed by Diana Peralta and shot in the city of Santiago in the Dominican Republic, moves through this creative silence; It’s the film's greatest, most impactful feature. It gives the viewer explosive scenes between arguing characters, then wraps them in stillness. It emanates this energy all while showing us the inner workings of a complex familial relationship.
The narrative follows the story of three siblings: Rita (played by Sasha Merci), Carolina (played by Darlene Demorizi), and Dante (played by Héctor Aníbal), who reunite after the death of their papí in order to financially resolve his childhood home. We watch the two New York raised sisters, Rita and Carolina, arrive from America to meet and work with their brother, Dante, to empty out the estate before selling the land. As the film goes on, the complex dynamic between the siblings is gradually made clear. Factors such as who shares screen time together as well as what is (and not) said when they do reveal a hidden cultural and emotional tension between the two sisters and their brother. Each sibling is trying to reconcile their own feelings in this graveyard of memories, but the difference in their relationship with their mother country, the house, their grandparents, and their papí, creates conflict between them. Rita and Dante’s relationship emphasizes this point. On the surface, their foils to one another. Rita, who seems to be the youngest, is implied to have left the Dominican Republic when she was very young, in contrast to Carolina who is hinted at being older and has more memories of her experience in this country. Dante on the other hand was raised by his abuelos in this home.
There are many points in the film that show the tension between them without wasting words, an awkward silence of sorts. Though, this isn’t the film's only use of silence. I watched this film in a quiet room, alone. I found that when the camera closed in on sagging palm trees and light gray skies, a beautiful aesthetic that was often paired with a gentle guitar, I would forget when the last time I heard a character’s voice was, or when Rita and Dante last argued. When characters were quiet and just appreciated the peace of the moment, the silence, everything felt… nice. It’s a simple explanation, but I don’t think there’s a better word for it. The film shows the three siblings argue and bicker, but I think silent moments like these perfectly emphasize the firm love and rare understanding between them that the filmmaker is trying to whisper to us.
Dante & Rita sit in silence by a waterfall
This film is very much a story about how to learn to love someone and somewhere again. I’ve never been much of a ‘blood is thicker than water’ type of person, but I couldn’t deny the innate love between the three siblings in this film that was just waiting to reveal itself, despite their differences. ‘De lo Mio’ or ‘of my people’ is a Dominican phrase that tells us to keep our own safe. From what I’ve gathered, anyone can be ‘De lo mio’; It’s up to each individual person to choose who their people are. This film is a reminder to find those people, and never leave them behind.