A widower’s discovery of his late wife’s secret life provides director and co-writer Jaime Osorio with a reasonably clever means to throw some darts at Latino machismo in “Without Amparo.” All the better that the widower in question is a proud captain of industry in Colombia, with his sense of power deflated by what he didn’t know about his 23-year marriage. Well-mounted comedy-inflected drama reps a high point for recent Colombian cinema, and will earn respect at fests if not many ticket sales.
Killed in a collision after a party, Amparo (Ruddy Rodriguez) leaves behind a trail of unsettling signs for Rodrigo (German Jaramillo) that she had a lover — starting with forget-me-nots left at her graveside and some photos he finds in her dressing room.
More attentive to his business than to Amparo when she was alive, Rodrigo ironically now loses sight of his company and grows obsessed with Amparo’s activities, tracing her everyday movements and coming across a seedy-looking nightclub that, a la “Eyes Wide Shut,” is like a porthole into another life. Enter Armando (Luis Fernando Hoyos), who was indeed Amparo’s lover, but knows nothing about the graveside flowers, and serves as an ersatz guide for Rodrigo once Rodrigo gets over the idea of killing him.
With touches of French helmer Bertrand Blier’s blackly comic depictions of clueless men trying to make sense of life, pic rounds a nice corner and develops a friendship between Rodrigo and Armando, who realize they have more in common than it might at first appear. As if to underscore how the power of the sexes has flipped, Osorio takes pains to show not only how Amparo also had a lesbian lover and a deep thirst for subterranean culture, but how Rodrigo’s daughter Andrea (Maria Jose Martinez) ably runs the firm in her father’s absence.
Osorio, also a vet producer (“Maria Full of Grace,” “Our Lady of the Assassins”), assembles a finely turned cast able to subtly switch gears as the script demands. At the center of it all is one of Jaramillo’s best performances, capturing every gradation of emotion from roasting anger to a sloth-like acceptance of life’s vicissitudes. Hoyos plays off Jaramillo’s building anxiety like an attentive sideman.
Bogota’s streets and alleys begin to resemble a maze of shadowy decay and desire, as framed by Osorio and solid cameraman Raul Perez Ureta. Composer Osvaldo Montes’ tangos work better than his cheesy romantic flourishes.