Ariel (Daniel Hendler) has an entertaining job in his mother's lingerie store in a Buenos Aires shopping mall, but he yearns for a new life in Europe. As he awaits the arrival of a Polish passport, Ariel learns disconcerting news from his brother. The mysterious father who left to fight the Yom Kippur War and never returned is coming back to Argentina and to his now adult son with a long "Lost Embrace."
"Lost Embrace" is the type of movie that will slap a smile on your face and keep it there. Argentina's entry for the 2004 Foreign Language Film Oscar is a charmer about one young man's self-search amidst a rag quilt microcosm of society. Writer (with Marcelo Birmajer)/director Daniel Burman is a young South American talent to watch.
Sonia Makaroff (Adriana Aizemberg, "Crane World") presides over Elias's Creations, the store named for her ex-husband whose disappearance she has never explained. The small Buenos Aires galeria also includes an electronics store run by the screaming Italian Saligani family, the beauty shop run by Mrs. Saligani (Mónica Cabrera), the Levin Brothers (really cousins) tailoring shop, Osvado's (Isaac Fajm, "Nine Queens") stationery store, Rita's (Silvina Bosco) Internet cafe and a Feng Shui store run by a Korean couple (Catalina Cho and Pablo Kim) whose relationship is undetermined. Ariel's brother Joseph (Sergio Boris, "The Motorcycle Diaries") has an office upstairs where he runs a dying import business with right hand man Ramón (Juan José Flores Quispe) and Ariel's best friend Mitelman (Diego Korol) works financial deals fronted by a travel agency.
Twenty-year old Ariel enjoys sneaking into the dressing room with fortyish Rita whenever Ma's away, but he feels uncomfortable not knowing Rita's relationship with her older backer Gerardo (Francisco Pinto) and their trysts do not compensate for the impatience he feels for his lifeforce of a mother and her ever present honey cake. He's even more intolerant of his grandmother's (Rosita Londner) warm soda and unwashed glasses, but he's beholden to her for the Polish documents that will help him get his passport. But something strange happens. Osvado, much to his mother's dismay, is forced to sell out and Rabbi Benderson (Norman Erlich) from the synagogue next door tells them he's taking a lucrative position in Miami Beach. Elías's (Jorge D'Elía) return during an anticipated road race between Ramón and 'the Peruvian,' throws Ariel for a loop, but long held secrets and newly made deals are revealed that change his perspective on life in the Galeria.
Hendler, who won Best Actor in Berlin last year for this role, narrates and acts with all the irreverent cockiness of youth and director Burman imbues his film's rhythms with his actor's jumpy impatience. The writing is full of warm wit and amusing details and the story is broken into small sections with titles like 'Honey in Canada' and 'Fragments of Elias' which add to the mosaic-like quality of Ariel's world. The excellent handheld camera work (cinematography by Ramiro Civita) with its closeup zooms and swish pans helps put across the gossipy beehive nature of the mini mall. Cesar Lerner's ("Nine Queens") score sounds like a jaunty twist on a Costa-Gravas political thriller.
The large ensemble cast are a joy to watch, particularly Adriana Aizemberg's fussing and joyful mother. She and Hendler have a great chemistry of loving exasperation and irritation. Rosita Londner's performance reflects the dawning admiration of her grandson's point of view and she ends the film with a lovely rendition of a traditional Jewish song. Jorge D'Elía smoothly incorporates himself into the film's final act with open hearted elegance.
"Lost Embrace" creates a unique little world full of characters that surprise and delight. It is a joy to spend time with them.
Robin's review coming soon!
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