Film Review: A Week Alone

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VIENNA -- A low-key study of childhood, lax parenting and the state of class relations in modern-day Argentina, "A Week Alone" covers a surprising amount of ground for what's such an unassuming affair.

It's the latest fruit of the collaboration between writer-director Celina Murga and her husband Juan Villegas (producer and co-writer here). Festival acclaim will translate smoothly to small-screen play, and there's enough ability here on both sides of the camera to warrant close inspection from art house distributors. It's one of the more accessibly engaging examples of a national cinema, which often can feel dominated by more ponderously snail-paced enterprises.

Murga and Villegas' screenplay avoids pitfalls of melodrama and contrivance that often mar kiddie-focused fare. Indeed, if anything they slightly underdo the plotting; they're much more interested in evoking a situation, its atmospheres and interpersonal dynamics. This is a social study of a gated suburban community -- specifically, a group of neighboring houses -- during a period when the owners have gone on holiday together, leaving their offspring (roughly a dozen, ranging from age 7-ish to 15) under the care of housekeeper Esther (Natalia Gomez Alarcon).

The drama's pivotal event is the arrival of Esther's teenage brother Juan (Ignacio Gimenez), who, living in agricultural Entre Rios (Murga's own province), is from a much less well-heeled background than his new acquaintances. The ever-changing power plays and relationship networks among the children, which we've been observing in close detail, become significantly altered.

Behavioral problems eventually ensue, in a manner that, as with the rest of the film, feels entirely organic and believable. Only a touch uneven around the edges, the ensemble is impressive with Gimenez, Lucas Del Bo (as sport-obsessed Facundo) and the strikingly pretty Magdalena Copabianco (as the precociously responsible Maria) first among equals.

Murga's concerns gradually become evident via implication and context, rather then actually being discussed in the dialogue. She gives us just enough information about the families, the absent parents and their social setting for us to draw our own conclusions and, if we so choose, much wider national and international parallels.

Venue: Vienna International Film Festival
Production: Tresmilmundos Cine
Cast: Magdalena Copabianco, Lucas Del Bo, Eleonora Capobianco, Ignacio Gimenez, Gaston Luparo, Natalia Gomez Alarcon
Director: Celina Murga
Screenwriters: Celina Murga, Juan Villegas
Producer: Juan Villegas
Director of photography: Marcelo Lavintman
Production designer: Julieta Wagner
Music: Ines Gamarci, Martin Salas
Costume designer: Jimena Acevedo
Editor: Eliane Katz
Sales Agent: Tresmilmundos Cine, Buenos Aires
No rating, 110 minutes
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