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Changes in directorial direction are rarely as radical as Juan Taratuto’s direct, emotionally searching The Reconstruction. Having made his name with bouncy, highly verbal romantic comedies (It’s Not You, It’s Me, Who Says It’s Easy?) starring the hangdog-faced Diego Peretti, Taratuto now puts Peretti at the center of a largely wordless, low-key and well-observed drama about the traumas of an oil drill inspector forced to confront his own demons. Particularly strong in its atmospherics and performances, especially from Peretti, who reveals previously unsuspected depths, this miniature tale of a damaged heart is admirable, but limited fest screenings are its likeliest fate.
The embittered world view of 50-ish Eduardo (Peretti) is established in the opening scene, as he drives right past a woman screaming for help from the roadside. On receiving a phone call from old friend Mario (Alfredo Casero), asking him to look after his hardware store while he has an operation, Eduardo reluctantly (he does most things reluctantly) heads down to Patagonia — specifically to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city — to help out.
Surly to the point of silence, rough in his manners and generally disengaged, Eduardo makes a poor impression on Mario’s wife, Andrea (Claudia Fontan), and daughters — troubled teen Cata (Eugenia Aguilar) and Ana (Maria Casali). Mario’s stay in hospital goes on longer than planned, and Eduardo is forced to engage with the family in ways neither side has foreseen.
In previous films, Peretti’s doleful expression has been used to communicate a Woody Allen-like comic neurosis, but here the soulful eyes and down-turned mouth convey a world of pain, the reasons for which are delivered in one short but telling speech Eduardo makes to Andrea. He is, frankly, unlikable and has let himself go, but Peretti and the script work together to ensure that his personality is justified and credible, and that his struggles to emerge from his hardened emotional shell are convincingly painful.
“Let’s have a talk”, one character says, whereupon we cut to a scene following the conversation. Dialogue throughout these scenes, and elsewhere, is kept to a bare minimum, with a lot of information supplied simply by changes of scenario. More background would have injected credibility: why Andrea, say, is quite so willing to have Eduardo stay on with the family under these particular circumstances is never addressed.
That said, it is precisely in its ability to reveal a range of human emotions, such as grief, guilt and insecurity without recourse to spoken language that the film’s power lies. A couple of key transition scenes, one observed through curtains and the other in a shower, stand out for their artistry and emotional impact.
Lengthy takes very occasionally overstay their welcome, particularly through the first part of the film. Widescreen photography by Nico Hardy makes full use of the stunning Patagonian landscapes, with the region making a wholly appropriate backdrop to a film about emotional desolation, just as it does in the films of Carlos Sorin.
The fact that there are only two moments of comedy, both using the same device, is typical of the film’s minimalist urge to exploit its slight dramatic premise. Musically, Ivan Wyszogrod’s simple piano and guitar notes are delicately suggestive. Brit singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch supplies two songs, both of which somewhat strangely also featured in Sam Mendes’ Away We Go (2009).
Venue: Venice Film Festival (Venice Days)
Production companies: Concreto Films, Cinear, Telefe
Cast: Diego Peretti, Claudia Fontan, Alfredo Casero, Eugenia Aguilar, Maria Casali
Director, screenwriter: Juan Taratuto
Producers: Dolores Llosas, Taratuto, Christian Cardoner, Mariano Gold, Mariano Suez, Axel Kuschevatzky
Director of photography: Nico Hardy
Production designer: Marlene Lievendag
Music: Ivan Wyszogrod
Costume designer: Roberta Pesci
Editor: Pablo Barbieri
Sound: Catriel Vildosola
Sales: Primer Plano Argentina
No rating, 93 minutes
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