Totem Presents a Bright, Optimistic Movie on Juvenile Sorrow

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Understanding Children’s Grief through “Tótem”

The complexities of children’s grief have always been somewhat of an enigma for adults. While we have a variety of expressions, symbols and rituals to help us deal with the initial days of loss, it is not clear exactly what young children experience when they face a loss, or they know that a loss is near. While psychologists may provide insights, there are no human emotions that can be easily defined or understood. “Tótem” is a film that delves into these uncharted territories directed and written by Mexican director, Lila Avilés. This content comes from the source of Reader Wall.

A Glimpse into “Tótem”

The film primarily focuses on Sol, a 7-year-old girl portrayed by Naíma Sentíes, as she spends a day in anticipation at her grandfather’s house, awaiting an extensive evening celebration planned for her father Tona, portrayed by Mateo Garcia.

Sol is thrilled about the event and together with her mother, Lucia, played by Iazua Larios, they have prepared a surprise performance for her father, which involves a clown wig and an operatic lip-synching act. However, Sol feels uneasy when they reach the house due to various family dramas, including her young cousin Ester’s, played by Saori Gurza, objections to her clown nose performance costume and her bickering aunts Nuri and Alejandra, played by Montserrat Marañón and Marisol Gasé respectively.

Her grandfather, played by Alberto Amador, has withdrawn into his study and is quite grumpy when he emerges. Amidst this chaotic family situation, which appears to be normal on the surface, Sol is gently informed that she cannot see her father as he needs to rest for his party.

The Underlying Sad Event

The sad reality is that Tona is dying of cancer. Even though Sol is aware that her father is seriously ill, this day is her truth encounter with his imminent death. Unlike what the premise might suggest, “Tótem” is a film that captivates you with its delicate narrative rather than overwhelming you.

This is Avilés’ second feature film after her debut “The Chambermaid” in 2018. The viewer gets to understand a lot about Sol through simply observing her reactions and interactions with the adults who seem to evade answering her questions about her father’s absence. Cruz, Tona’s hired nurse played by Teresa Sánchez, is the only adult who pays attention and reassures Sol when she begins to doubt her father’s love for her.

Children and Grief

The question here is how can one expect a child to grasp the concept of a final goodbye. Amid her grandfather’s residence, Sol ponders alone, barely acknowledged by the adults who are dealing with their issues.

She shows her love for animals and their shared world by bringing in snails from the garden and placing them on the boring paintings inside the house in an attempt to add some life. She also expresses her fascination and friendship to a parrot perched outside on a car.

The Perspective of “Tótem”

“Tótem” presents a mystical aspect – an understanding of witchcraft as an attempt to establish a thorough connection with the natural world. It highlights the fact that sometimes, this connection is what we need to get through the most challenging days.

Family life is portrayed as a net in Avilés’ film which can contract and expand based on the whims and needs of its members. At the moment, Sol is trying to grasp an event that feels formless and terrifying as it looms ahead.

Nevertheless, “Tótem” offers hope rather than despair. It envisages a promising future for Sol, a perspective that wraps the living world in an embrace, and has been carefully nurtured by her parents. Undeniably, “Tótem” is enveloped in a veil of sadness, yet the film presents it as golden and gossamer, prospective of light beyond the sorrow – a notion challenging for children but equally beneficial for adults to remember.


Sonny, a prolific Bollywood author, weaves enchanting tales that mirror the vibrant tapestry of Indian cinema. With an innate ability to capture the essence of Bollywood glamour and drama, Sonny's literary creations transport readers into the heart of the film industry. Immerse yourself in the magic of Bollywood through Sonny's evocative storytelling on ReaderWall.