Mengele's easy charm helps him inveigle his way into the family's confidence while the German ex-pat community in the nearby town support his further genetic experimentation. Despite the revelations after the end of the Second World War, the locals continues to harbour certain sympathies and a secluded lakeside house receives secret visitors via hydroplane. Wakolda could have played as a thriller or even a psychological horror, but Puenzo is interested not just in the tension of Mengele and those apparently destined to become his victims, but with a wider culpability for the Nazis that remained at large in South America for decades. Subtlety is the director's favoured tool in most instances, the plight of the family wonderfully accentuated by the beautiful cinematography.
In other moments, however, things work less well. As with her inaugural offering, 2007's XXY, Puenzo once again employs some heavy-handed symbolism that the film could have managed without. That said, the understatement can also have a negative affect and does to some extent by stripping away any emotional attachment to the family. There's some interesting substance beneath the narrative but when things in Wakolda do get fraught, you can't help but feel that they're never quite as tense, nor as engrossing, as they perhaps could have been.