Everybody's Got Somebody … Not Me: AFI Fest Review
Raúl Fuentes' drama follows an emotionally cut-off lesbian and a vibrant high school student in a stylized portrait of a love affair.
Shot in color and processed in rich black-and-white, the Mexican drama Everybody’s Got Somebody … Not Me is a stylized portrait of a love affair. The central duo, an emotionally cut-off lesbian and a vibrant high school student, are captured in solid performances, and the visual scheme is striking, but none of that is enough to lift the story to a more gripping level of intensity.
Writer-director Raúl Fuentes lards his narrative with literary references, and showcases writerly quotes in title cards that punctuate the action. He relies too much on them, though; as carefully crafted as his first feature is, it would have benefited from fewer such flourishes and asides, and a more straightforward chronology. A selection of AFI Fest’s Breakthrough section, the film is a promising debut that falls short of the intended mark.
At the heart of the story is the aloneness of Alejandra (Andrea Portal), a thirtysomething book editor who seemingly has no interest in emotional involvement, until she meets Maria (Naian Daeva), a teen of precocious intellect and artistic flair. With her disregard for rules, Maria pulls Alejandra out of her shell of solitude — terrifically expressed in a jazz club scene where she insists they dance.
But the exuberant night ends badly, in a clash between youthful independence and older-but-not-wiser rigidity. At this 30-minute point, the movie’s title appears and the narrative doubles back to show how the two women met: in the unlikely setting of a bowling alley, exchanging a few words about Plato, along with a phone number.
Sophisticated and given to inflexible, condescending opinions, Alejandra enjoys playing teacher to Maria’s acolyte. It’s a setup the free-spirited Maria can abide only so long, and the older woman’s hair-trigger jealousy further corrodes their bond.
The two leads generate convincing chemistry, in the tenderness and excitement of a new relationship as well as in the deepening fissures. As a controlling intellectual who easily attracts women, despite herself, and who finds her deepest human connection turning to a desperate obsession, Portal is flinty, comical and sad. Alejandra’s clomping high-heeled stride is a perfect expression of the uncertainty beneath her self-satisfied posturing — especially in comparison to Maria’s easy movements in doodled-on sneakers.
Fuentes and his performers nail the way Alejandra’s insecurities are exacerbated by the age difference. Yet although they deliver a number of strong scenes, the story grows repetitive and is ill-served by the scrambled chronology. The literary nods — to the likes of Beckett, Foucault, Breton and Fernando Pessoa — are eloquent expressions of the possibilities and perils of love, and their potency is nearly undone by their abundance; more judicious use would have yielded a more incisive commentary.
The sharp production package features character-enhancing work by Fuentes’ art department (with no designated production designer). Jerónimo Rodriguez Garcia’s cinematography is creative but never showy within a tightly defined visual strategy: In keeping with Alejandra’s lack of fluidity, all camera movement is on the vertical or horizontal axis. The selection of international alternative rock similarly suits the hyper-intelligent characters.
The sharp production package features character-enhancing work by Fuentes’ art department (with no designated production designer) in the upscale Mexico City locations. Jerónimo Rodriguez Garcia’s cinematography is creative but never showy within a tightly defined visual strategy: In keeping with Alejandra’s lack of fluidity, all camera movement is on the vertical or horizontal axis. The selection of international alternative rock similarly suits the hyper-intelligent characters.
Venue: AFI Fest (Breakthrough)
Production company: Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos
Cast: Andrea Portal, Naian Daeva
Writer-director: Raúl Fuentes
Producer: Armando Casas
Executive producers: Laura Pino, Carlos Taibo
Director of photography: Jerónimo Rodríguez García
Music: Melt-Banana, Cloroform, His Name is Alive, Luri Molina, Timber Timbre
Editor: Silvia Lucero
No MPAA rating, 92 minutes.