A Week Alone (Celina Murga, 2009): Argentina

Reviewed by Byron Potau.  Viewed at The Regent Theatre as part of the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.

In director Celina Murga’s drama, A Week Alone, there are moments of poignancy as strong as any coming-of-age film has ever had, but the film suffers from a lack of plot as the children sit around doing nothing most of the time.

Several kids, a mix of boys and girls from approximately the ages of 4 to 14, are left home with their housekeeper, Esther (Natalia Gomez Aarcon), for the week.  Some of the kids are cousins, and some are friends who come and go freely.  They spend their time swimming in the pool, playing video games, drinking a little bit, and breaking into some of the houses in their gated community which seem to be left unsecured and free of adults, save for the gated-community security guards who patrol the area sporadically.  To complicate things, Esther’s younger brother, Juan (Ignacio Giminez), arrives and seems to be rejected by all the other kids, with only brief exceptions here and there.

The most intriguing plotline follows Maria (Magdalena Copabianco), one of the older adolescents who is left in charge, develops a brief crush on her cousin, Fernando (Gaston Luparo), only to coldly reject him after he returns her feelings.

The ensemble cast, which is mostly comprised of children, is incredibly natural and uniformly excellent, and it is a shame that director Murga has wasted such fantastic acting.  Instead of giving them something to do, we watch several scenes of the actors being bored.  We suffer through long scenes of them painting each other’s nails, listening to music, playing video games, and watching television.  It cannot get much more tedious than having to watch someone else watch television without being able to see what they are watching.  It also seems strange that so many of the homes in the community are unsecured and empty.  Where did all the adults go?  It is clear that some of the parents of these children went on vacation, but not all of them went together, and the kids give signs that they do not always know whose home they are breaking into.  It is also difficult to sort out all of the kids, who are a mixture of friends, cousins, brothers, and sisters.  All of the time spent allowing the kids to interact on such an uninteresting level does give the characters’ relationships with each other a good deal of depth, bringing out subtleties that are otherwise difficult to obtain, but this level of slow development comes at too great a price.  The film would have benefited from a little more clarity and, especially, more plot.  Instead, Murga’s film has some very powerful scenes of adolescent coming-of-age, but with all the boring parts included.  This week alone ultimately feels more like a month.

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