“As the film presents pandemic confinement as a self-healing process, Shanly exposes the traumas of his generation: one that is eager to deal with its mental health issues but is not fully equipped to do so.“
March 2020. Arturo is an unemployed, clumsy Argentinean man-boy struggling to enter adulthood. His best friend Daphne is celebrating her wedding despite the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak reaching Buenos Aires. As he tries to find a ride to the wedding party, Arturo confesses this will become the worst day of his life.
When an incident interrupts Arturo’s ride to the party in a crowded sedan, he starts a solitary journey to the venue, a country club on the outskirts of the city. Once there, even crossing the guest-list filter tests his patience. Inside the club he finds himself confined with his most intimate circle: immediate family, long-time friends, former partners. Each of these relationships has been tested in the past few years, as Arturo’s lack of stability clashes with the individual issues of everyone around him. Throughout the journey from the church to the climax of the party, Arturo will revisit the most defining moments of this turbulent period.
The Flannigans are an upper middle-class family from suburban Buenos Aires. In the film they seem to work as a vehicle to explore generational conflict. Arturo, an archetypical millennial, has failed to find financial stability, forcing him to resettle in his childhood house. He depends on his baby-boomer mother, who has her own particular ways of demonstrating love for her middle son. The youngest one at home is Olivia, a conflictive centennial who seems to despise Arturo. The household is still processing the death of Mariano, the oldest sibling, a death that happened some years before. Mariano had a daughter with Majo, a Gen-X playwright who deals with mourning by staging foreign-funded experimental plays. All of these four women are present at the party.
Also attending are Arturo’s closest friends. Nico, his former roommate, recently became a father after transitioning to a male identity. Not long ago Arturo accompanied Nico on a day-long bus trip for him to come out as trans to his biological mother. With bride Daphne – a fellow Irish Argentinean – the relationship seems closer to the kind one has with a sibling or a cousin, lacking any diplomacy during conflicts but thriving due to the bond formed in difficult moments. In those moments Arturo’s everyday-life ineptitude is balanced by his qualities as a friend. Arturo’s clique is depicted as a diverse, body-positive bunch that subtly embodies the progress in terms of women’s and LGBT rights in Argentina.
After bumping into a naïve junior-high girlfriend, Arturo realizes his most recent partner is also at the party, and the two men have a short talk. As he dances to Fey’s Azúcar Amargo, still heartbroken by their breakup and intoxicated by alcohol and the treacherous evening, Arturo is on the verge of losing control.
This is 35-year-old Martín Shanly’s sophomore directorial effort. Shanly is clearly interested in coming-of-age as a central subject: his 2014 debut Juana a los 12 (About 12) dealt with the trials of a pre-teen girl. This time around, he also stars as the lead character of the film. His self-casting and the naturalness of the whole ensemble’s performance makes it inevitable to suspect there are a number of autobiographical elements to the story: a sequence of increasingly frustrating ellipses that is cleverly mitigated by continuous micro-doses of irony. As the film presents pandemic confinement as a self-healing process, Shanly exposes the traumas of his generation: one that is eager to deal with its mental health issues but is not fully equipped to do so.
(c) Image copyright: Un Puma