'Young Hunter' ('El cazador'): Film Review | Rotterdam 2020

The Young Hunter - Rotterdam - Publicity Still - H 2020
International Film Festival Rotterdam
Will hook LGBT festival attention.

Juan Pablo Cestaro stars in Argentinian writer-director Marco Berger's latest feature, premiering in the Big Screen Competition at the Dutch festival.

There's more than a hint of early eighties Tom Cruise about Argentinian newcomer Juan Pablo Cestaro, who stars in Marco Berger's Young Hunter (El cazador), the premise of which coyly echoes that of Risky Business

This time, however, the horny teen who gets into carnally-related deep water after being left alone by vacationing parents happens to be gay. This fits in with the previous oeuvre of prolific writer-director-editor Berger, best known internationally for Plan B (2009), Hawaii (2013) and 2011's Berlinale Teddy Award winner Absent.

A slow-burningly sensitive character study, which spices up familiar art-cinema techniques with genre inflections, Rotterdam premiere Young Hunter is primarily of appeal for LGBTQ+ festivals and platforms.

Cestaro's slightly offbeat good looks, with untrimmed eyebrows even more dramatically striking than those of pre-fame Cruise, are very much front and center here; cinematographer Mariano De Rosa favors widescreen lenses that blur the backgrounds. A brooding, introspective type, Cestaro's sporty 15-year-old Ezequiel has had girlfriends in the past but is now in the process of accepting his real preferences. A chance skate-park encounter with the slightly older Mono (Lautaro Rodriguez) seems to offer the chance of a genuine first love, despite the social gulf separating the two: Mono, with his tattoos and piercings, is evidently from the "wrong" side of the tracks, in contrast to Ezequiel's affluent background.

Mono also has a shady second cousin in his late twenties, Chino (Juan Barberini), in whose apartment they spend a night of (offscreen) passion — yielding dramatic unforeseen consequences. These problems may seem to come out of the blue for Ezequiel, but the audience has been unambiguously tipped off by Berger's directorial approach for the scenes in Chino's unkempt pad (where the boys watch a very noisy horror movie pre-coitus). Berger lays on a dark, thriller-like vibe by means of De Rosa's camerawork in tandem with Carolina Perez Sandoval's sound design and, in particular, Pedro Irusta's ominously throbbing electronic score.

These moody stylings occasionally threaten to overwhelm what is essentially quite a slender narrative, but thankfully the second half of the picture — Ezequiel's parents and sister return before the halfway mark, much earlier than their Risky Business counterparts — takes a different, more measured tack. The focus now abruptly shifts to include a third skate-park denizen, Juan Ignacio a.k.a. "Juancito," who's a little younger than Ezequiel but at least as street smart.

He's played by another newcomer, diminutive Patricio Rodriguez, who seems to have casually wandered in from another, better film — maybe Jonah Hill's mid90s — and proceeds to deliver Young Hunter's freshest, most accomplished performance as the unwitting target of amoral Chino's unscrupulous machinations.

Production company: Sombracine  
Cast: Juan Pablo Cestaro, Lautaro Rodriguez, Patricio Rodriguez, Juan Barberini
Director / Screenwriter / Editor: Marco Berger
Producer: Alberto Masliah
Cinematographer: Mariano De Rosa
Production designer: Natalia Krieger
Costume designer: Marisa Spinnelli
Composer: Pedro Irusta
Venue: International Film Festival Rotterdam (Big Screen Competition)
Sales: Wildstar, London
In Spanish
No rating, 101 minutes