Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cecilia Atán & Valeria Pivato's THE DESERT BRIDE: a little movie that looms quite large

A small film that gets just about everything right, THE DESERT BRIDE (La novia del desierto) takes a sad situation -- that of a 54-year-old Chilean maid who has worked for an Argentine family for over 30 years and is now being let go, due to the sale of the house in which she has lived and labored for most of her life -- and turns it into a near-perfect character study that encompasses everything from class, gender, servitude, religious faith and more -- all accomplished, movie-wise, without beating the drums or even raising the voice.

As written and directed by Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato (shown above; Ms Atán is on the left) with some writing collaboration from Martín Salinas, the movie flashes back to our heroine, Teresa, and her work for that family, even as it moves gently forward on a road trip that is halted midway, taking this woman into new and quite uncharted territory.

If the film's leading lady looks familiar, that is because she should. Back in 2013 Paulina García (shown above and poster, top) made a much-deserved international breakthough as Gloria, the leading role in in Sebastián Lelio's eponymously titled film, following this up with a nice supporting turn in Ira Sachs' Little Men. In Desert Bride, Ms García lands another plum role that she makes utterly memorable via her wonderfully expressive face and her ability to give us so much of her character's inner life so quietly and with such subtlety and strength.

In the role of the older man whom she meets on her journey and who changes her route, Argentine character actor and theater director, Claudio Rissi (above), proves equally adept at creating character via small, keen strokes. The two actors work beautifully together, drawing us into their lives and their needs.

The filmmakers seem to me especially good at visual storytelling. Whether in focus or out, long-distance, middle- or close-up (the fine cinematography is by Sergio Armstrong), the landscape, with its vast distances, as well as that of the human face are both captured beautifully.

Via flashback and tiny, present-day events, character is revealed. One of the film's dearest moments comes as Teresa measures the height of the family's son, even as the depth of the relationship between these two comes clear. 

The Desert Bride may be small scale, but its accomplishment in telling its tale of life and change is a big one. And Ms García adds yet another memorable role to her impressive career.

From Strand Releasing and running a mere 77 minutes, the movie opened in New York City and Chicago two weeks ago, and in Los Angeles (at Laemmle theaters) this past Friday, May 11. This Friday. May 18, it hits several other cities, and here in South Florida it will open next Friday, May 25 --  in Miami at the Tower Theater, in Fort Lauderdale at the Savor Cinema, in Hollywood at the Cinema Paradiso, and at the Lake Worth Playhouse. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here and then click on Screenings in the task bar midway down.

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