María y el Araña – María and Spider

Seen as part of the ¡Viva! Film Festival.

I was bracing myself for yet another coming-of-age tale having read the description of this film, the only one in the ¡Viva! Weekender by a female director.

But I was pleased to discover that my fears were unfounded.

Yes, the film’s two main protagonists are a couple of teenagers, but in many ways they have already ‘come of age’ long before we meet them juggling or selling puzzle books for pennies on the underground Subte system in Buenos Aires.

With minimal dialogue and a touch of social realism, we see them sharing happy moments together in between heading off to their respective homes: Maria in a shanty town on the outskirts of the city, where she lives with her grandmother and grandmother’s partner, and ‘Spiderman’ to a flat which he shares with a man whose identity we never actually learn (father? brother? grandfather? no relation?).

In some ways the plot becomes a little predictable, but the manner in which events are revealed is not. Much is unsaid yet totally understood, and the performance from non-professional Florencia Salas is outstanding.

I’m interested now to find more of director María Victoria Menis’s films.

Feriado – Holiday

Seen as part of the ¡Viva! Film Festival.

Apparently set in 1999, just before the economic collapse in Ecuador, although this wasn’t evident to me.

The really interesting thing would have been to explore the race/class/money themes which are touched upon, but instead the film becomes a cliché coming-of-age story (oh how I hate that phrase) about a teenage boy coming to terms with his homosexuality during a holiday away from home blah blah blah.

It’s been done so many times before, and without the cringeworthy shots lingering on a young man’s torso etc. The audience actually laughed out loud during those scenes, which probably tells you everything you need to know.

Had I seen this in 1999 I might have been impressed.