A middle-aged man crosses paths with a jeune femme to mostly deja vu effect in Eliseo Subiela’s “Heartlift,” a sometimes witty and winsome but mostly labored comedy on the emotional effects of aging that reps a stylistic departure for a helmer hitherto known for heavy metaphysics. Urbane item is agreeable enough as an ironic riff on the characters’ hopelessly intellectualist approach to their emotional lives. Pic’s stereotyped view of Argentina seems crafted for tango-thirsty offshore auds, but an unappealing protag and conventional plot leave prospects limited to Subiela’s hard core fans.
Spanish plastic surgeon Antonio (Pep Munne), married to Cristina (Maria Barranco), hears shortly before heading for a conference in Buenos Aires that he is about to become a grandfather, which he sees as further confirmation he’s not getting any younger. At the conference, Antonio falls for his new assistant, Delia (Moro Anghileri), and before long, she’s teaching him to tango, with all that implies.
Back in Spain, Antonio can’t live without Delia and invents another conference. Unsure where to take their relationship, the script shifts its attention to the developing, more explicitly comic connection between Cristina and the shrink (Jean Pierre Noher) she’s visiting to sort out their marital probs. The shrink is responsible for pic’s funniest moment, no more than a fleeting expression, which suggests a subtler, more nuanced film struggling to emerge.
The over-theatrical Munne does a decent turn as the pompous, self-confident pro whose emotional foundations are crumbling, but his internal struggles never come across strongly enough to win over the audience. Anghileri is a little too passive as Delia, but has a freshness that contrasts well with Antonio’s ennui. The normally vivacious Barranco, as a woman finding her independence after years of wifehood, is unexpectedly and effectively understated.
Pretentious dialogue is presumably not to be taken seriously, but it’s sometimes awkwardly ambiguous — Ezequiel (Arturo Bonin) intones, “I adore your sincerity” even as he is being dumped by Delia.
The initial sex scene between Antonio and Delia, meanwhile, is a truly dreadful potpourri of confused camera angles and cheesy ’60s-style music. This aside, the score is attractive, even moreso during the more reflective scenes. Lensing is rarely more than efficient. The plastic surgery/eternal youth metaphor, a throwback to the helmer’s more earnest work, is generally handled deftly.