'No Kids' ('Sin Hijos'): Film Review

Courtesy of Patagonik/Tornasol
No kids, but plenty of class.

Ariel Winograd’s comedy about the romantic misadventure of a divorced dad has been a major hit in Argentina.

No Kids is based on a neat high-concept premise — divorced guy who adores his daughter falls head over heels for woman who hates kids. After that, the question is how well it exploits the premise, and the answer — given the film’s quality performances, energy and slickness — is very well. With each new film, director Ariel Winograd cleaves closer and closer to straightforwardly commercial fare, and in Argentina at least, his third feature has shown that it’s paying off handsomely at the box office. The film’s universal themes, up-to-date feel and winsome characters suggest that a remake could be in the cards for Kids.

Divorced Gabriel (Diego Peretti, currently one of Argentine cinema’s higher-profile stars) runs a music store and lives with his 9-year-old daughter Sofia (Guadalupe Manent), who is the true love of his life. After falling for Vicky (vet Spanish actress Maribel Verdu), a globe-trotting journo looking to settle down, Gabriel attends a party where it becomes clear that Vicky’s a part of an organization called No Kids, devoted to celebrating the freedom that not having children brings.

In order to stand a chance with Vicky, Gabriel is therefore forced to conceal the Sofia part of his life from her, which initially means clearing all traces of his daughter from his apartment whenever Vicky comes round, down to erasing and recreating her blackboard scrawls, then to pretending that Sofia is his little sister, and then to all manner of amusing deceptions which, in the end, inevitably unravel. All of which sounds — and is — very deja vu: but it’s done with spark, flair and enthusiasm, and feels not in the least tired.

No Kids cleverly chimes for a generation of parents which is ambivalent about having kids, loving them deeply whilst at the same time aware of the lost freedoms parenthood entails. It’s this nicely contempo notion which at least partly explains the film’s lengthy run at or near the top of the Argentine box office.

Peretti, an Argentinean Hugh Grant with a bigger hooter, goes from strength to strength, especially in these roles as the comically neurotic romantic lead, and Mariano Vera’s script might have been written for him. Verdu (best known offshore for her key role in Pan’s Labyrinth) is not best-known for her comedy work but does fine work here, though not always comfortable through the transitions from evil child-hater to romantic lover: there are question marks too over why she falls for Diego, but the strong, credible chemistry between them helps smooth things over.

As is generally the case with this kind of fare (and "fare" it definitely is), the real grown-up amongst all these confused adults is little Sofia, confidently played by Manent as sassy, street-wise and thankfully not the slightest bit cute. It’s due to her that the dramatically key Gabriela/Vick/Sofia triangle feels so solid. The story is fleshed out elsewhere by a range of appealing supports: the dumb younger brother who can only express himself through music (Martin Piroyannsky), the anti-kid pediatrician buddy (Guillermo Arengo).

Occasionally Winograd aims slightly higher and shows that he’s capable of shifting things up a notch, as in a beautifully modulated late set-piece, set in a wood, which draws strongly on myth and fairy tale for its power. Dario Eskenazi’s major-key score is always attractive and upbeat, but sometimes too obviously dictates the mood.

Production company: Patagonik, Tornasol, M&S, Esta Por Venir

Cast: Diego Peretti, Maribel Verdu, Guadalupe Manent, Horacio Fontova, Martin Piroyansky, Guillermo ArengoDirector: Ariel Winograd

Screenwriter: Mariano Vera

Producers: Juan Vera, Juan Pablo Galli, Alejandro Cacetta

Executive producer: Juan Vera

Director of photography: Felix Monti

Production designer: Daniel Gimelberg

Costume designer: Monica Toschi

Editor: Alejandro Brodersohn

Composer: Dario Eskenazi

Casting director: Walter Rippel

Sales: Filmsharks Int'l

No rating, 100 minutes

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