Film Review: A Week Alone



Vienna International Film Festival

VIENNA -- A low-key study of childhood, lax parenting and the state of class-relations in modern-day Argentina, "A Week Alone" ("Una semana solos") 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 arthouse distributors. It's one of the more accessibly engaging examples of a national cinema, which can often feel dominated by more ponderously snail-paced enterprises.

Murga and Villegas' screenplay avoids pitfalls of melodrama and contrivance that often mar kiddie-focussed fare. Indeed, if anything they slightly under-do 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, ages ranging from 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). He lives in agricultural Entre Rios (Murga's own province), 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, now significantly alter. Behavioral problems eventually ensue, in a manner which, 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.

Production company: 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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