Everybody Has a Plan (Todos Tenemos un Plan): Toronto Review

Ana Piterbarg's debut is a low-simmer thriller whose simple plot allows for some complex psychology.

Viggo Mortensen's fourth film in Spanish (his first language) is his first shot in Argentina, his childhood home.

TORONTO — A man looking to escape obligations by swapping places with his identical twin gets something else entirely in Everybody Has a Plan, the assured feature debut of Argentine writer/director Ana Piterbarg. The presence of Viggo Mortensen will draw attention to the film, particularly with him playing dual parts, but Piterbarg's sensitivity will likely find admirers and could help sustain an arthouse run driven by more than novelty.

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Mortensen plays brothers raised on one of the tiny islands in the Tigre Delta, a vast, swampy area near Buenos Aires. Pedro still lives there, keeping bees and doing less savory jobs on the side, and has long been a stranger to Agustín, a pediatrician living in the city. Just as Agustín is experiencing a life crisis -- backing out on adopting an infant with his wife, entering an undefined depressive state -- he is visited by Pedro, who is dying of cancer.

When Pedro dies in front of him, Agustín decides to trade lives -- leaving his brother's body to be mistaken for his, and trying to pass himself off as the much more worldly beekeeper-turned-crook.

Mortensen quietly piles desperation atop desperation here, his eyes showing that part of Agustín realizes how unlikely it is he'll convince neighbors and colleagues he's the man they've known for years. Especially challenging is Rosa (Sofía Gala Castaglione), who helps Pedro collect honey and is also somehow tied to Adrián (Daniel Fanego), Pedro's sometime partner in kidnappings. Agustín and Rosa begin an affair, but Piterbarg isn't about to let anyone get comfortable: Loose ends from one of Pedro and Adrián's recent schemes make hiding in Tigre more dangerous than the alternative.

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Though it offers numerous scenes of violence, one of them disturbingly intense, Plan is no quick-pulsed thriller. Its intensity level matches its setting, where travelers from the city share long water-taxi rides with neighbors, each stop a different small island. (Camera work by Lucio Bonelli captures the flavor of the place nicely, though the geography of labyrinthine waterways aren't exploited as one might expect.)

Threats are made early on and linger, content to be delayed for the unspecified length of a business associate's "fishing trip." That leaves ample time for viewers to puzzle over Agustín's deeper reasons for embracing his brother's dark-sheep identity, to imagine what was going wrong with the life he left behind, and to search his eyes wondering why he's not trying to escape this life before things finally crumble.

Production Company:  Haddock Films, Tornasol Films, Fox International Productions

Cast: Soledad Villamil, Daniel Fanego, Javier Godino, Sofía Gala Castaglione, Viggo Mortensen

Director-Screenwriter: Ana Piterbarg

Producers: Mariela Besuievsky, Viggo Mortensen, Gerardo Herrero, Vanessa Ragone

Executive producers: Mariela Besuievsky, Vanessa Ragone

Director of photography: Lucio Bonelli

Production designer: Mariela Ripodas

Music: Lucio Godoy, Federico Jusid

Costume designer: Valentina Bari

Editors: Irene Blecua, Alejandro Lazaro

Sales: Fox International Productions

No rating, 117 minutes