NZIFF ’11: Medianeras

nziff ’11: Medianeras
dir. Gustavo Taretto | Argentina/Germany/Spain | 2011 | 95 mins.

It takes a great deal of ambition to critically examine the relationship between a city and its inhabitants. It’s risky to attempt to do this with a wide range of characters, and even more risky to do so with only two characters. Gustavo Taretto does just this. With a fun opening that details the architectural styles of Buenos Aires and the many issues that arise from their peculiarities, the film moves to focus on the lives of two neurotic twenty-somethings, their aimlessness, and their troubled relationships.

This sounds like the beginnings of a romantic comedy—and Medianeras is a truly modern romantic comedy, only it goes much further than that. Taretto is much more concerned with the inability of his two protagonists to actually meet in this modern world, how their city defines them. The film still presents a “Will-they/won’t-they?” situation, but the question is more when our protagonists—played charmingly by Pilar López de Ayala and Javier Drolas—will meet, rather than whether they will become a couple.

We become invested in both of these flawed, sympathetic and hilarious people long before they first cross paths like ships in the night, and we are totally rooting for them to get together. The not-yet-met conceit is an interesting and vital injection of life into the standard romantic comedy formula, but also serves the themes of the film very well.

Taretto’s film deals intelligently and empathetically with how people use technology to socialise—particularly over short distances within the same area of a city—and how this ultimately comes to define their lives. To its credit, the film never judges its protagonists, preferring to simply observe their struggles to connect with other like-minded individuals.

Medianeras is not without its faults, though: it risks getting too precious at points—even as de Ayala’s character’s dilemma of never being able to solve a “Where’s Wally?” set in the city actually pays off massively. Taretto makes sure the film remains a vibrant, entertaining commentary on modern people and the technology that defines them—and how everything might actually be okay despite that.

The New Zealand International Film Festivals began on July 14 in Auckland, and finish there this weekend; they started in Wellington yesterday, and travel to Dunedin, Christchurch, Palmerston North, and Hamilton throughout August, then Nelson, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Hawke’s Bay, Greymouth, Masterton in September and October, before finishing in Kerikeri in November.

Full information on all films in the programme is at the festival’s website.

For more reviews, browse the “New Zealand International Film Festivals 2011
tag on this site, and check the Twitter hashtag #nzff.