‘Somebody’s Life’ (‘La Vida de Alguien’): Film Review
The fourth feature from the critically acclaimed auteur Ezequiel Acuna tells the story of an Argentine indie band attempting to start over
An intimate exploration of an Argentine indie band’s attempts to regroup and start over, Somebody’s Life is a lot quieter and more thoughtful that some of the music it features. As with Ezequiel Acuna’s previous work, Life, an oddly nostalgic movie for a 40-something to be making, mixes up the themes of friendship, romance and the importance of the past with plenty of music. The result is a coolly melancholic but lively piece whose apparent slowness is mitigated by the complex subterranean network of emotion which the script and performances generate. Acuna has a strong presence on the Latin American fest circuit, but his work deserves exposure elsewhere too.
Life is based on the real-life experiences of the Uruguayan band La Foca (The Seal), whose music also loomed large in Acuna’s last, Excursions. Leader of the band Guillermo (Acuna regular Santiago Pedrero, done up to look like Kurt Cobain’s chubby-faced younger brother) hears that a record label is finally planning to release an album the band recorded eight years earlier. The problem is that in the meantime, the band has broken up.
Guillermo looks up singer Pablo (Matias Castelli) and Juli (Julian Larquier Tellarini), the brother of Nico (Ignacio Rogers), a childhood friend of Guillermo who it’s later revealed was in the band but who disappeared after the breakup. Also brought into play are the kookily charming Luciana (Brazilian-Argentinian actress Ailin Salas), with whom Guillermo strikes up an uncertain friendship/affair.
Much of the dialogue feels semi-improvised, locating the film strongly somewhere between fiction and documentary. For Acuna, authenticity seems to be the key, and indeed he’s frustratingly jettisoned any structured storyline in favor of observing how things play out as the band rehearse, play, smile, argue, and go on comically bad radio shows. The focus is always on Guillermo, well-played by the quietly charismatic Pedrero, who is uncertain about how to disentangle the personal from the professional.
At which point, the characters themselves, and the internal tensions between them, become the story. Anyone who’s played in a band will recognize that the script is strong on those brittle internal tensions which keep the creative sparks flying whilst also always threatening to destroy things.
They’re a varied and interesting enough bunch of characters, though as usual in such indie fare, their basic inarticulacy works against them. Their friendships between them feel attractively real, though it would have been good if the script had given us a little more of Pablo and a little less of Guillermo and Juli, a comic one-trick pony whose references to Pablo’s bad dancing start to weary the viewer as much as they do Pablo. Anyone expecting anything even remotely resembling wild man of rock shenanigans will be disappointed, as these are all nice, quietly spoken 30-somethings whose true selves are best expressed through their music.
Like most music-based movies, aud reactions will be determined by taste. There are 32 songs featured here, some of them more or less entire, and if you don’t like sometimes wonderful, airy jangly discordance of La Foca’s sound, then that’s going to be time wasted, while the duets between Guillermo and Aileen are straight-up whiney-tedious bedsit fare: musically, too, Acuna’s strumming hand doesn’t always seem to be doing what it should.
An evocative electro score is used through Guillermo’s memory sequences, which show the visual elegance that D.P. Fernando Lockett, here employing an often dreamy 35mm, tends to bring to his projects: though Acuna’s lazy fondness for slo-mo, accompanied by swooning indie music in the background, is a cliche that he’d do better to use more sparingly in future.
Production company: No Problem Cine
Cast: Santiago Pedrero, Ailín Salas, Matias Castelli, Julian Larquier Tellarini, Julian Kartun, Ema Gomez, Ignacio Rogers
Director, screenwriter: Ezequiel Acuna
Producers: Ezequiel Acuna, Sebastián Perillo, Omar Jadur
Director of photography: Fernando Lockett
Production designer: Juan Manuel Brignole
Costume designer: Carolina Boverini
Editor: Mario Pablo Pavez, Ezequiel Acuna
Composer: La Foca
Sales: No Problem Cine
No rating, 92 minutes