One Night of Love [Una noche de amor] (Hernán Guerschuny, 2016): Argentina

Reviewed by Susan Cochran. Viewed at the Metropolitan Fiesta 5 Theaters, Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2017

Una noche de amor Poster

Director Hernán Guerschuny, from Argentina, takes on relationships in his second feature length film. Co-written by Guerschuny and Sebastián Wainrauch (who plays Leo in the film), this comedy takes on long term relationships and the game we call life. The opening credits mimic a huge board game mixing animation with the main character traveling through his day in a little red toy car; going from office to appointments to stores to finally arriving at home and collapsing onto the couch that turns into a real set right before our eyes and the movie starts.

And we are now ready to spin the Wheel of Life. Let’s see where we land.

Family – Leo and Paola (played by Carla Peterson) have been married for 12 years. With two small children, intimacy rarely occurs. The desire is there but the opportunity is not. They finally fall into bed together at the same time and just as amor passionately grasps them, the door swings open and two little boys run in and jump on the bed complaining they can’t sleep. The camera angle moves to directly overhead and we are treated to the sight of two adults and two children flipping and flopping and trying to get comfortable. Finally they are asleep; all tangled together and the scene jumps to an overhead closeup shot of a white cutting board with sliced fruit. All arranged exactly how our actors were curled up in bed. Another day starts. Spin the wheel.

Careers – Leo is a successful screenwriter. He has an attractive young neighbor who wants his help to get her into film school and it appears she would be happy to provide favors for his efforts. He also has celebrities wanting him to write great parts for them. Paola is a psychologist with a couples therapy practice. And she cannot understand why her couples keep splitting up. Spin the Wheel.

Date Night – Leo’s mom has the kids until 1:30am. Sharp. They are to meet their best friends for dinner but they get a call informing them that the couple has split up and won’t be joining them. Stunned (even Paolo didn’t see this coming) they decide to go out on their own. A couple. Like a date. Spin the Wheel.

Decisions – Now in their little red car (it looks exactly like the toy car in the opening credits) they talk as long term relationship people talk – Should they go? Where should they eat? Should they check on the kids? Can you change that scratchy CD? I hate your music. Did I tell you the story of…of course you did, a hundred times. Do you like my earrings? Do we need gas? Why did our friends break up? Will that happen to us? Stop at a pharmacy, I need a pregnancy test. Call your mother and check on the kids. This segment goes from close up shots in the car where they are trapped together and talking at and over each other and then the shot swings to an aerial overhead view of the car going round and round in a roundabout with voice overs of their conversation going round and round. When they decide on a restaurant, we see the little red car finally get on the straight and narrow. Spin the Wheel.

Dinner – Bickering continues and things get quite personal as they switch restaurants. Leo encounters an old celebrity rival, Paola sees a handsome colleague on the way to the restroom to take a pregnancy test (Spoiler alert: the wheel does not land on “add another child”). Back at their table, they drink quite a bit with another couple and they all argue. The table segment is filmed with a camera circling the table as the conversation goes round and round. Spin the Wheel.

Alternatives – The long walk to the little red car seems like a forced march through the minefields of marriage. Inside, tight lipped and belted in, Paola realizes she left her cell phone at the restaurant and goes back alone to retrieve it. Later, through the restaurant window, we see her deep in conversation with the handsome colleague. Meanwhile, Leo, still belted in, daydreams of a simple life with the attractive young neighbor and he visualizes her adoring him. Spin the Wheel.

Reality – You need to buy a ticket. Guerschuny follows a Woody Allen style of writing and directing but this film is definitely his work. Wainrauch and Peterson give a very believable portrayal of a long married couple. His facial expressions and put-upon demeanor are the perfect foil to her energetic performance. Opposites do attract. The cinematography by Marcelo Lavintman shows his skills; sweeping city views, tight little red car shots, overhead scenes, and medium conversation shots. We are in this couple’s world and sometimes, we just need to figure out which way to go. Go see this movie and have fun as you play your game.

[Photo from IMDb]

 

 

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