An arduous, self-conscious exercise in style
Six friends in their thirties get together to spend an entire Sunday at a country house. When they were younger, they had lofty ideals and big plans for themselves. They were naive and optimistic. Now that time has gone by and the future is already here, they all share a common feeling: they are disillusioned with who they are, whether they like to acknowledge it or not. Granted, they enjoy a life of privilege typical of the bourgeoisie, but have a hard time trying to find a state of true well-being and fulfillment. It makes sense: they are just too cynic.
As the day goes by, they engage in diverse conversations, all trivial, some filled with carefully disguised resentment. They tell each other anecdotes, recall old stories, discuss this and that, but they never get anywhere. Their conversations are, in fact, so inconclusive that they feel an urgent need to switch from one topic to the next. For the most part, they talk about nothing and hide what really happens to them. Sometimes, however, they do confront some of the fears and reasons for their malaise. They even seem to learn from it. Perhaps, after all, there’s hope for a better tomorrow. Or not. The truth is that it remains to be seen.
Give or take, this is at the core of Argentine filmmaker Luciano Quilici’s opera prima Los quiero a todos (I Love You All), which was first a play written and staged by Quilici himself three years ago in a small BA theatre. The very first day the play opened, the director felt that the language of theatre was insufficient for the full potential of his material, so he decided to make a film.
Made on a low budget and with no official funding, Los quiero a todos surely is the kind of film the director wanted it to be. Each single decision (camerawork, editing, sound design), was carefully studied and neatly executed. Nothing was been left to chance. Everything was under control. A near perfect and carefully engineered piece of machinery, if you will.
But the problem is that the film shows too much. Los quiero a todos boasts the kind of formalism that draws attention to itself to the point of eclipsing the drama instead of underlining it. For the most part, it’s a self-conscious exercise in style. An accomplished one, no doubt, but an exercise nonetheless. Take the obsessive, clear-cut framing. It’s eye-catching at first, but when you realize it doesn’t convey much, it soon becomes monotonous, automatic.
The same goes for the composition of each shot, too calculated and even rigid. It doesn’t really communicate much about what’s going on. It’s just smart looking for the sake of it. This is how a film intended as a real portrait of real people ends up looking and feeling artificial and rehearsed. An unintended paradox. To be honest, there’s some spontaneity in the dialogue, which closely reflects the way people speak in real life.
The words and expressions and the way they are used, and the pauses and silences ring true.
It does help a great deal that actors Leticia Mazur, Ramiro Agüero, Margarita Molfino, Valeria Lois, Alan Sabbagh, Loren Acuña, Santiago Gobernori, and Diego Jalfen are more than aware of how to deliver their lines and make them sound natural. Sometimes, however, they tend to overemphasize their gestures, actions and reactions.
The problem is not what is said but rather the way it is said. As an exploration on the disenchantment of a generation, it resorts so much to commonplace and overworked notions that there’s nothing much to write home about.
What these characters say and what the film says about them has been said so many times before that you’d think you are watching a remake of a dated artsy movie.
On the plus side, the overall sound design, expressive and recognizable, and some isolated scenes are to be celebrated. It’s precisely when there’s less control of the drama, which flows more realistically. This happens in the least important conversations, in what seems to be strictly anecdotic, when the subtext is not heavily handed. Too bad there are not enough of these lucky breaks. This is when you get a glimpse of what a film like Los quiero a todos could have been like