'Papers in the Wind' ('Papeles en el viento'): Film Review

Courtesy of Concreto Films
Given the emotional richness of its subject, “Papers” is a strangely flat experience

High-profile soccer and solidarity feel-good drama from popular Argentinian director Juan Taratuto

A return for Argentinian director Juan Taratuto to the explicitly commercial following his potently dour last outing The Reconstruction, Papers in the Wind is comparatively thin, flimsy fare, workmanlike but strangely lacking in conviction: despite being peppered with gentle, human moments, it too often suggests missed opportunities. That said, home BO for this yarn about three friends trying nobly to raise money in an ignoble world has been solid, with its twin universal themes of male friendship and soccer, combined with its high-profile cast, likely to ensure at least limited interest from other Spanish-speaking territories.

Interest could further be buoyed by the fact that papers is based based on a novel by Eduardo Sacheri, who was also behind the novel which spawned Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar-winning The Secret in their Eyes.

Fernando (Diego Peretti), lawyer Mauricio (Pablo Echarri), and struggling car-wash owner El Ruso (Pablo Rago) are lifelong friends and lifelong fans of Buenos Aires’ Independiente soccer team. Fernando’s brother El Mono (Diego Torres) has recently died, leaving his widow Lourdes (Cecilia Dopazo) and daughter in a financially precarious state: all of Mono’s cash is tied up in Pittilanga, a young soccer player who is not delivering on his initial promise. Fernando’s plan is to sell Pittilanga so that he can give his niece a decent education, but Pittilanga’s lack of talent is a major obstacle.

An unexpectedly twisty plotline develops, featuring video manipulations to make Pittilanga look like a better player and a corrupt sports radio presenter, Prieto (Daniel Rabonovich). The tensions among the three protags also come to the fore, with the unpleasant, dream-busting wheelings and dealings of the soccer industry coming in for criticism along the way.

One of the great scenes of Argentinian film history is Secret’s swooping, diving soccer stadium tracking shot which leads the hero to the criminal. The beautiful logic leading to the shot is that a man’s passion for soccer will mean you can always track him down: but in Papers, such passion, strangely given Argentinians' legendary love of the beautiful game, is mostly missing. Even less passion is evident in the protags’ relationships with women, who are a problem not only for the characters, but also for the script: Lourdes is shown to be a straight-up harridan, while the partners of Mauricio and El Ruso are similarly one-dimensional. The net result that neither women nor men come over as particularly engaging.

That said, the performances are reliably strong, with only Echarri of the central trio failing entirely to win over aud sympathies. Peretti, blessed with one of the great hangdog faces of Latin American cinema, has starred in four of the five Taratuto features to date and makes Papers largely his own, despite being ill-defined as a character: Fernando appears, to have no job and all the time in the world to pursue this project, a project during which, incidentally, our boys meet too few obstacles to generate much dramatic interest.

The script abuses flashbacks, which only sporadically emerge seamlessly out of the action. There to reveal the nuances of each of the protag’s relationships with El Mono, and to underpin the homage to buddiness which the film ultimately is, they’re a little too long and too literal, with the terminally ill El Mono too uncomplicatedly decent to be persuasive.

There’s something clipped and measured about the tone, the script and the director successfully preventing things from becoming merely mawkish -- always a likelihood given the subject matter. But that doesn’t mean that there are a few too many over-extended or go-nowhere scenes: one involving El Ruso paying for a bus ticket to the sticks and another showing Fernando borrowing a suit from Mauricio are just two examples. At certain points, Ivan Wyszogrod’s melancholy, plangent score delivers real emotional heft.

Production companies: Concreto Films, Cinear
Cast: Diego Peretti, Pablo Echarri, Pablo Rago, Diego Torres, Daniel Rabinovich, Cecilia Dopazo
Director: Juan Taratuto
Screenwriters: Taratuto, Eduardo Sacheri, based on a novel by Sacheri
Producers: Dolores Llosa, Juan Taratuto, Cristian Cardoner, Mariano Gold, Mariano Suez, Axel Kuschevatzky
Director of photography: Javier Julia
Production designer: Marlene Levenzag
Costume designer: Roberta Pesci
Editor: Pablo Barbieri Carrera
Composer: Ivan Wyszogrod
Sales: FilmSharks Intl

No rating
98 minutes

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