"The premise of “Song Without a Name” is at once fact-based and the stuff of shadowed, surreal nightmares, and Peruvian writer-director Melina León’s artfully affecting debut feature splits the difference: Earthy with social detail from a despairing period of Peru’s recent history, it’s also shot, scored and styled like the most beautiful of bad dreams. The film’s wistful, elegiac tone, immaculate monochrome cinematography and compassionate focus on disenfranchised indigenous women will inevitably prompt surface-level comparisons to Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma"..... But León’s far more modestly scaled Latin American period piece is entirely its own film, meshing vérité-style technique with passages of dark, folkloric reverie, as its characters’ investigation of a single kidnapping spirals into a heady vortex of institutional corruption. León’s world-building remains mesmerizing, steeped as it is in local lore, rituals and haunting traditional music. Strains of Andean charango meld with the more contemporary ambient textures of Pauchi Sasaki’s score, while Briones’ imagery is a constant marvel, whether finding the poetry in hailstones bouncing off asphalt or silhouetting Georgina’s daily, mountainous commute in long shot, like storm-blown frames of shadow theater. "
"Melina León's bold debut feature is a Kafkaesque thriller of crime and corruption that tells a stranger-than-fiction true story revolving around stolen babies in 1980s Peru. With gorgeous monochrome visuals and rich musical layers, the film is evidence of a strong new directorial voice, ear and eye. Song Without a Name is above all an exquisite audiovisual experience. Leon and producer-cinematographer Inti Briones frame their sumptuous monochrome vistas in a boxy 4:3 format, partly to summon memories of TV and newspapers in 1980s Peru, but this device also creates a sublimely alien silent-movie mood at times. Their geometrically precise shot-framing is masterfully done, elevating even sacks of potatoes and tumbledown shacks into high art. The drone-heavy score by Peruvian avant-garde composer Pauchi Sasaki, a sometime protege of Philip Glass, provides elegant sonic and emotional counterpoint to the lusty Andean folk ballads and traditional lullabies that Leon weaves into this melancholy memorial to dark times."
"This accomplished first feature from Melina León is based on harrowing real events; León’s father was one of the journalists who investigated the case. There are similarities here with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma which go beyond the striking black and white photography. Both films deal with social hierarchies in Latin American countries which divide the population along racial lines; both feature wrenching depictions of interrupted motherhood. "
"This monochrome gem from Peru traces an impoverished mother’s heartbreaking search for her kidnapped newborn daughter, based on true events. The film’s colour scheme and setting in a Latin American country’s political crisis, as well as its graceful filming style, have raised inevitable comparisons to Alfonso Cuáron’s Oscar-winning Roma. But perhaps a woman, Melina León, in the director’s seat, gives this an edge in what has been a banner year for female filmmakers at Cannes."