Suddenly penniless, and without even a simple change of clothes, mother and daughter start hiking until they find a dilapidated hotel run by Mirta (Ines Estevez), depressed because her hubby has flown the coop, leaving her to cope with two small children. Laura convinces the hostile hotelier that she needs help as much as they do, and an uneasy cohabitation begins.
For a while, the two women are content to explore their unlikely bond, while the kids develop their own back-country games. Things are stirred up mildly by the hunky Tony (Federico Olivera), who brings Mirta groceries and is clearly in love with her, but much more so by Muriel’s father, Ernesto (Cuban star Jorge Perugorria), now a successful photographer, who shows up and patiently pleads his case for starting up the family anew.
Individual events are handled well by first-time helmer Eduardo Milewicz, with the actors given plenty of room to establish their moody characters. Dramatically, however, pic’s structure is feeble, with plot elements raised and then dropped for no apparent reason. Emblematic gaffe has hand-scrawled pages of Muriel’s diary filling the screen as chapter dividers, only to have this device disappear after just a couple of tries. Muriel herself just about vanishes for much of the middle, destroying child’s-eye concept for rest of pic. Hint of lesbian attraction between Laura and Mirta is also floated tentatively, but given no resolution.
Pic is never sloppily lensed, however, and its sheen is buffed by a neat score from “Bagdad Cafe” composer Bob Telson. Appropriately nostalgic tune rendered throughout tale by Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso (in Spanish) adds to “Muriel’s” international feel.