“I don’t enjoy leading people to things that aren’t right,” says Raúl (Oscar Génova manages a believable degree of sadism both in the bedroom and during his gun running, no-receipts-required affairs). The comment is made as his sudden live-in boyfriend, Roberto (particularly in the first half, Nehuén Zapata’s alluring physique and visage bring a compelling combination of hope for a better life, sexual heat and simmering despair to the challenging role), accepts a cigarette following a home-cooked meal. This comes as quite a surprise to his mother (Olga Perez shows true grit playing the part of a long-abused woman who knows how to remove the male rubbish from her realm) and sister Alejandra (the transition from horny for her brother’s latest man to a fine madness that must be acted upon largely eludes Marisa Pájaro: too unashamed in the former, lacking magical introspection of the damned in the latter) who never knew that the baby of the family smoked. Apparently, neither does his elder lover. After violent one-way couplings, inhaling a fag becomes the closest “passive” Roberto will ever get to satisfaction from his demanding meal ticket and shelter provider. Curiously, he seems to have a found a surrogate for his own cruel—now absent—father.
The catalyst in this tale of a relationship that begins poorly and continues to spiral out of control is “just in town—Buenos Aires—for a few days” César. Javier De la Vega is ideally cast as Roberto’s instant fuck buddy. Their love scene is a gem, leaving little to the imagination and boldly revealing real physical interest. After enduring Raúl’s three-minute clothes-on penetrations, this couple’s tenderness, passion and reciprocal activities masterfully serve the purpose of explaining why so many relationships fall apart when there’s an uncaring bully calling the shots. Of course, the question also remains: Why go back to the brute if there is something much, much more satiating at hand?
Sadly, quite a few viewing the film will understand that situation only too well.
For his first feature, director/writer José Compusano has demonstrated love and compassion for those who get in over their heads, yet can’t seem to escape, much less tame their tormentors. The opening sequences are marvels of show-don’t-tell characterization (brilliantly captured and edited by Leonardo Padin), sparse, yet mood-and-plot building dialogue and a covey of images (notably train tracks along with stray or chained-up dogs) that combine to make the time vanish and desire to know more palatable. (Juan Manuel Colombo’s original score never intrudes, fully understanding the power of silence; the solo guitar interventions are especially well-crafted.)
However, once the “third wheel” decides to demand rather than wait for a rematch, the narrative loses its way with a string of too-convenient-by-half scenes that undermine the actions of everyone. The sidebar storyline of Raúl’s distant daughter, an attempt by Alejandra to take the family motto of “share everything” to extremes and a gun deal gone sour chip away at the cinematic excellence until the inevitable conclusion provides almost comic relief rather than any feeling of justice done.
With such a promising début, Compusano’s other projects ought to be tracked down to discover just what else he’s learned during his own evolution as an artist. JWR