Tan cerca como pueda goes for mere examination
“At first, my idea was to portray my relatives and loved ones as if I were undertaking an anthropological study, just like when you want to immortalize a moment in a photograph. And then I felt that resorting to fiction (writing a script, elaborating scenes, getting together with a small crew for a period of time) was the best tool to reach out to them,” Argentine filmmaker Eduardo Crespo stated in an interview about the genesis of his opera prima Tan cerca como pueda, a close up look at the quotidianity of a common man in crisis.
For Crespo’s film focuses on the circumstances surrounding the life of Daniel, a man in his fifties who comes back to his home town of Crespo, in the province of Entre Ríos, after many failures and disappointments. But the scenario there is not really welcoming either: work is scarce, his ex wife rightfully asks for alimony money he can’t produce, and it seems he’s out of place everywhere he goes. However, there’s one good thing: the baptism of his sister’s son. It so happens that Daniel is going to be no less than the grandfather, which makes him believe there is still some room (even if small) for celebration.
In time, Daniel’s older nephew, Giovanni, goes to temporarily live with him in his apartment.
He too is somewhat lost and confused, so it makes sense both of them begin to realize they perhaps are on the same boat. Maybe they can even help each other out. Give or take, this would be the storyline (so to speak) of a film that does precisely what it’s not expected to do: it opts not to tell a story. Instead, it’s all about situations, actions, reactions, moments, and, above all, circumstances.
So expect a precise observational stance towards each single detail that makes up everyday life. Minor events are much welcomed. Anecdotes shared in intimacy.
Preparations for the baptism, reunions with old friends, trivial discussions, and dance classes for kids are some of the strokes in a canvas depicting life in a small town. Observation and contemplation are the keys to enter this universe.
Regrettably, the huge problem in Tan cerca como pueda is that for a fiction film, its structure is way too feeble and lacks the minimal and neccesary dramatic progression to get things going. Situations in themselves are somewhat well explored, but they fail to add up to a compelling statement of any kind. For a documentary that goes for an intimate approach, it’s superficial in the broadest sense of the word: deliberately or not, it scratches the surface of the entire scenario and leaves it at that. It’s very clear that Crespo’s film lies somewhere between the realms of fiction films and documentaries, just like many, many recent local films.
But take Maximiliano Schonfeld’s beautiful Germania, which places its acute, sensitive gaze on the last day of a family of Germans in a small town in Entre Ríos. Whereas Schonfeld insightfully observes the traits of a community at the same time it subtly tells an underlying, emotionally charged story, Crespo goes for mere examination and has a very hard time at engaging viewers into an emotionally distant universe. Even if the characters in Tan cerca como pueda relate to one another affectionately, the film itself does not establish an emotional bond with viewers.