Intimate Stories Movie Review
María (Javiera Bravo), a new mother who religiously sends applications to her favorite game shows, is selected to appear on Multicolored Casino, a gaudy, amateurish program that films live every day in San Julián, and journeys - with baby boy in tow - to the TV studio for her one shot at self-esteem-boosting stardom. Don Justo (Antonio Benedicti), the aging owner of a roadside supermarket forced to endure his patronizing son and daughter-in-law - who call him "crazy" behind his back and cut his food for him - straps on his new hiking boots for the 200-mile trek to San Julián after learning that his beloved runaway dog Badface has been seen there. Meanwhile Roberto (Javier Lombardo), a cagey salesman peddling fat-reducing topical paste, endeavors to deliver a birthday cake to Rene, the child of a lovely San Julián client he urgently plans to woo. Convinced that happiness, contentment, and salvation await them at the end of their expeditions, each sets forth on his or her own mini-odyssey, along the way meeting a variety of strangers while discovering that, though dreams can be fragile and illusory, kindness, and selflessness are commodities in plentiful supply for those open to receiving them.
Unfolding with casual delicacy, Intimate Stories (written by Pablo Solarz) feels like a campfire yarn bereft of the giant, climactic payoff, instead maintaining a relaxed, almost demure tone of destiny-touched hopefulness. Sorin's direction is polished but unfussy, lending a believability to his tales' incidents of happenstance, and his informal mise-en-scène is aided by his cast of professional and non-professional actors. Every one of Sorin's performers brings an affecting naturalism to the film, from Bravo's silent, beaming smile when María wins the coveted "multiprocessor" prize on national TV, to Roberto's frustrated destruction of Rene's birthday cake after he spies the object of his affection with another man. The film's stirring emotional center, however, is the understated Benedicti. As the despondent Don Justo - an obstinate elderly man who believes Badface deliberately deserted him for a crime he committed years earlier - the 80-year-old first-time actor exudes shame and remorse through minimal gestures (a corner-of-the-mouth grin, opening his eyes slightly wider than normal) while conveying the onerous burden of his character's guilt via his scrunched, stooped posture. And though Sorin's portrait of the aged traveler can sometimes be too precious for its own good, the director nonetheless finds poetry in the simple, low-key image of Don Justo mischievously wiggling his ears for a group of giggling, delighted children.
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