I usually don’t watch a lot of romantic comedies, but this was a recommendation. I didn’t have high expectations. I was more interested in trying to understand the Spanish and view the fervent bustle and architecture of Buenos Aires.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by the quirky characters and flow of the film. It surprised me and left a strong ponderous residue long after it was over. I was expecting more of a traditional urban love story, but instead I discovered a reflection on the themes of isolation, loneliness and technology. It felt very relevant to our current place in time.
The story revolves around two loners Martín and Marianna. They are two broken birds, wounded souls trying to find some kind of connection outside of their insular worlds. Both are trying to move on from their previous relationships but still remain somewhat tethered to the past.
Mariana is an architect who has never designed a building. Instead she creates window displays and has an interesting relationship with her mannequins. One of my favorite scenes is her riding in a bus with her chin propped in the hand of a mannequin. Mariana struggles to erase the last reminders of her previous relationship as she goes through digital photos and phone messages.
Martín is a web designer. He lives in the apartment building next door. His apartment is a kitschy museum of adolescence, dark and womb-like. These trinkets seem to be reminders of happier times. His previous girlfriend left him behind and never came back from the United States, leaving him with her dog as a constant reminder. He looks online for some kind of connection to remind him of the happiness he once felt.
The movie is structured in three acts following the seasons autumn, winter and spring. Through autumn and winter the story bounces back and forth between Martín and Marianna as they fumble through attempts at dating. They both try to find a true connection but anxiety and doubt always seem to sabotage their efforts. While both characters could be seen as rather pathetic, there is still something strangely resonant and hopeful in their search. They continue to lurch toward love in spite of themselves.
In the third act, spring, they both get a window installed in their respective apartments. The windows are facing each other’s building and the scene is ripe with symbolism as they stare out at the opposite buildings absorbing the new light on their faces. From that point forward a series of events put in motion the eventual spark (literal shock) that brings them together.
The film has echoes of Woody Allen, although with a slightly darker tone. It’s no coincidence they are both watching Manhattan at the same time near the end of the film. The movie puts a soft focus on navigating modern relationships. and how we seem physically close within an enormous city like Buenos Aires in some ways we are further away from each other than ever before. You feel the rhythms of the city, as a pulsing undercurrent. The waves are out of sync. There’s a strange thread of Where’s Waldo woven through the story that to me seems rather superfluous to the broader themes but serves more as narrative connective tissue. The ending was predictable and a slow simmer left on the stove…
The only thing I didn’t like was the music.