Image+Nation stands apart from our other local film festivals because it affords movie-goers the opportunity to experience characters whose sexual identities fall somewhere between 1 and 6 on the Kinsey scale. The quality of said films, however, can also run the gamut from terrific to terrible. Keeping an open mind, then, let’s take a gander at three of the fest’s offerings.
Plan B follows the story of Bruno, a cocky gent who hopes to win back his ex-girlfriend by secretly befriending her new, rumoured-bisexual man Pablo and faking an interest. Sure, it sounds like the plot of some zany romantic comedy, but what unfolds is an entirely believable, surprisingly grounded tale of two guys navigating a friendship that stirs up conflicting emotions left and right. Argentinean director Marco Berger keeps the pacing slow, builds the tension and captures some enjoyably awkward moments throughout. What really makes this a must-see, however, is the commitment of the leads, Manuel Vignau and Lucas Ferraro, whose often wordless reactions to each other and palpable internal conflicts fill every moment of the movie with a relatable discomfort. By the time the story reaches its seven-minute long, single-take moment-of-truth you’ll be riveted.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is From Beginning to End, a mystifyingly one-dimensional exultation of a romance between two half-brothers. Whether Francisco and Thomás are cuddling as young boys or engaging in lovers’ spats in front of their father as grown men, director Aluízio Abranches insists upon depicting their incestuous love as pure and prevents any characters around them from challenging it in any way. It’s an empty fantasy, devoid of narrative tension or even memorable characterizations.
This is made hilariously clear when, about half-way through the film, the story jumps forward a decade. Without so much as a single line of dialogue to acclimatize his audience to the adult actors now portraying his leads, Abranches introduces the fully-grown Francisco and Thomás by having them strip down to their skivvies and go at it in the living-room, after their mother’s funeral no less. It might as well be any random men getting frisky, since the two at the centre of this “story” are about as unique as underwear models.
Much of the rest of the movie is spent in slow-motion, as they tango nude to generic string music or splash around in the waves, only to be joined – quite inexplicably – by their mother’s … ghost? It isn’t explained, but then, clearly, that’s the least of the problems here. Abranches’ movie was never intended to provoke an intelligent discussion of the controversial topic it purports to explore, and therein lies the real shame.
In spite of a weak title and cheesy ending, Leo’s Room is decidedly more satisfying. The tale follows the titular Leo (Martín Rodríguez) as he cautiously tries to find a way to begin investigating his same-sex interests. Curiously, though, director Enrique Buchichio splits his focus in two, adding a second, equally compelling portrait to the mix in the form of Leo’s childhood crush-turned-depressive, Caro (Cecilia Cósero). While the reasons for Leo’s difficulties with women quickly become clear, it’s the mystery of Caro’s inner pain that keeps one guessing throughout the picture.
Special mention must be made of Rafael Soliwoda, who portrays Leo’s pot-head roommate Felipe and turns his barely-there character into the film’s comedic star with only a couple of lines of dialogue. Buchicio may still have a ways to go when it comes to bringing closure to his characters, but this first offering suggests he’ll quickly become a star, as it’s rumored Leo’s Room will represent Uruguay at the next Academy Awards.
From Beginning To End screens at the Concordia Hall Theatre building tonight at 7 and Leo’s Room follows Sunday at 3.