‘Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’ is a Mexican black comedy drama co-written, edited, produced, and directed by Five-time Academy Award-winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman and The Revenant).
It follows Silverio Gama, a Mexican documentary filmmaker in LA who travels back to his home country and contemplates his existence via outlandish visions and perspectives.
It was released theatrically in September and is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Bardo opens with a man running extremely fast and then flying across a desert. We are then introduced to Silverio Gama aboard the Los Angeles Metro Rail, returning from a pet store. He is a Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker residing in Los Angeles.
He lives with his wife Lucía and son Lorenzo. Silverio is shown to be an odd character who looks at the world through a fantastical lens, often immersed in vivid imagination rather than reality.
His latest project, ‘False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’ is a hot topic of discussion that sheds light on his troubled life. Silverio and Lucía are also plagued by the death of their first-born son Mateo, who passed the day after he was born. The couple finds it difficult to move on from the tragedy and keep his ashes with them.
Moving on with his life, Silverio goes to meet America’s ambassador to Mexico at Chapultepec Castle where the two discuss the 1847 Battle of Chapultepec, among other things.
The filmmaker’s brain goes into overdrive and he imagines the bloody exchange between soldiers right in front of him.
Silverio also discovers that he will be receiving the prestigious Alethea Award for journalistic ethics, becoming the first Latin American to do so. Unfortunately, his mind convinces him that this move is America’s desperate attempt to ease the rising tensions with Mexico.
It is stated that this difficult situation arose due to Amazon’s attempts to purchase the Mexican state of Baja California, along with a negative attitude towards U.S-Mexico migration.
The seasoned journalist tries his best to deal with media criticism back home. He internally feels guilty about moving to America since so many people in Mexico can’t do it legally.
Furthermore, he cancels an interview last minute but imagines being criticized for everything he’s done, including his decision to run away from home at 16. He takes time to think about his life as a father and a husband as well.
Does Silverio accept the award? Does his mind become his ally?
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths ending explained in detail:
Do Silverio and Lucía move on from Mateo’s death?
Eventually, Silverio and his family go to a party organized for him in Mexico. He is ecstatic to catch up with his working daughter Camila but is quite indifferent towards his siblings and other relatives. There is a screening of his latest documentary, which gets massive applause.
The talk show host Luis, whose interview he canceled, is also present. He uses harsh words to criticize his work and calls Silverio out for using a metaphorical narrative to talk about his own life.
He retaliates by berating Luis’ opinion-peddling style of journalism that showcases everything but the truth. Eventually, sneaking into the toilet, away from the public eye, Silverio imagines reuniting with his deceased father and mother.
In his vision, after he leaves his mother’s place, he witnesses representations of historic atrocities in Mexico. Furthermore, he notices a huge pile of corpses over which, he speaks to Hernán Cortés (A Spanish conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire), who speaks to him about indigenous genocide.
Before going back to LA, Silverio and his family spend time in Baja California, as Amazon buys the state. Camila reveals that she wants to quit her job in America to move back to Mexico.
The family finally decides to scatter Mateo’s ashes in the ocean before leaving for the U.S.
What happens to Silverio?
After landing, the family is triggered by an annoying Latin-American customs official, who pokes them about their American citizenship. Back home, Silverio steps out to clear his head and goes to buy axolotls.
He gets the salamanders as a surprise because Lorenzo reminds him of when his old ones died. He takes the Metro Rail on the way back, and it is revealed to be the same scene that is shown in the beginning.
In reality, Silverio suffered a massive stroke aboard the train and was left unattended for hours. He is finally taken to the hospital where he slips into a coma.
The film then explains that all the distorted visions and moments that have been shown so far are his dying brain’s efforts to make sense of his life.
Does Silverio survive?
At the ceremony, Camila accepts the Alethea Award and reads her father’s speech, which is also something his brain comprehends in a convoluted manner.
The next scene showcases the unconscious protagonist on his bed, surrounded by family and friends. They have been switching on the television, playing songs, talking, and unknowingly influencing Silverio’s dreams.
In another dream, he sees himself in bed and walks out of his house into a barren desert. There, he notices a copy of himself, who mimics his actions for a bit, but then walks away.
Silverio traverses the desert and reconnects with his deceased family. He ignores the calls from his wife and children and starts flying through the desert (Just like at the beginning of the film).
His fate in the real world is left ambiguous.