White Elephant [Elefante Blanco]

"Excellent"

White Elephant [Elefante Blanco] Review


A true story from Argentina, this blistering drama is produced on a grand scale that really captures the intensity of the story. And as we're impressed with the quality of the filmmaking, we're also drawn in by a remarkably personal story about flawed people trying to make a difference. It's an important film, filled with sparky people who give us hope for humanity.

The "white elephant" of the title is a massive hospital construction site that sits unfinished on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Over the years, a vast slum has grown up around this edifice, causing another layer of embarrassment to politicians. Especially since the sprawling shantytown is run by warring drug lords (Gatti and Varela) who square off with both the ruthless riot police and the local people who are fed up with violence. Right in the middle of all of this is an inspirational priest, Father Julien (Darin), who drafts in his Belgian priest friend Nicolas (Renier) and social worker Luciana (Gusman) to help. But things are getting increasingly precarious for them all.

Expert filmmaker Trapero (who worked with Darin in Carancho and Gusman in Lion's Den) takes the time to explore all of the characters with remarkable depth. We begin to understand what draws Julien, Nicolas and Luciana to this dangerous place in which they can only barely hold out hope that they'll make a difference. And all three of them have severe experiences that remind them of their fragility. Darin is terrific at capturing Julien's reluctant realism, while his physical illness raises other issues for him. Renier gives Nicolas a gritty crisis of faith, as well as a moment of shocking steeliness. And Gusman as always holds the camera in her fierce gaze.

The film is packed with remarkably enormous set pieces in which Trapero never loses the humanity. One of the most unnerving scenes involves Nicolas storming right into the heart of kingpin Varela's viper's nest, demanding peace. ("That's a lot to ask for," she replies.) Indeed, the screenplay never takes an easy route through the material, recognising that it's only through raw tenacity that even one life can be turned away from this kind of violent existence. And it challenges us with the idea that perhaps we can make a small difference ourselves.

Rich Cline



Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Pablo Trapero

Producer: Alejandro Cacetta, Juan Pablo Galli, , Pablo Trapero, Juan Vera

Starring: Ricardo Darín as Julián, Martina Gusman as Luciana, as Nicolás

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.