Review: ‘Time Off’

A notable addition to Chile's youth wave, filmmaking team Francisca Schweitzer and Pablo Solis' "Time Off" gently and wittily taps into the angst felt by a couple taking a weeklong pause in their relationship. It would be wrong to view the pic as a mere lifting of American indie tropes, because it reps a striking new turn for Chilean movies about contempo couples -- pics that have tended toward slick and glib sex comedies.

A notable addition to Chile’s youth wave, filmmaking team Francisca Schweitzer and Pablo Solis’ “Time Off” gently and wittily taps into the angst felt by a couple taking a weeklong pause in their relationship. It would be wrong to view the pic as a mere lifting of American indie tropes, because it reps a striking new turn for Chilean movies about contempo couples — pics that have tended toward slick and glib sex comedies. Extremely attractive fest item looks to score with smart younger auds across most Latin American territories, and should be seriously considered by U.S. distribs.

Pola (Sigrid Alegria) tells b.f. Camilo (Francisco Perez-Bannen) that she needs some space and a week away from him. Why she does so is gradually revealed through the course of the seven days. Part of the cleverness of Schweitzer’s and Solis’ script is that Pola’s perspective and sense of relationship crisis isn’t shown by observing her, but rather by following him — in effect, allowing the viewer to stand in for Pola, who is absent from the pic for long stretches.

Twenty-eight-year-old Camilo, we soon learn, is in the late stages of slackerdom, holding the ultimate job of that lifestyle: videostore clerk. His wealthy best friend Gustavo (the droll Luis Gnecco) shares his distress over the prospect that Pola may be pulling away for good, but since Gustavo has barely spoken since his parents died, he commiserates silently.

Camilo lacks the willpower to snap out of his funk; it’s going to take a cute girl to do it. Enter teen gal Mike (Carolina Castro), who brings a new tone to pic that’s not welcome at first. She acts ditzy-cute in a way that only happens in the movies, and it triggers a musical number sung by Camilo (in B&W) that suggests “Time Off” may be about to turn into a madcap romp.

It doesn’t because Schweitzer and Solis stay focused on Camilo and his potential to fully become an adult. Mike’s schizophrenia brings out Camilo’s caring side (since she’s an aspiring ballerina, so he buys her tickets to a ballet concert), but not so much that he falls in love with Mike, and out of love with Pola.

Once the week’s up, both Pola and Camilo have changed a bit, and Alegria’s later reappearance hints at another movie that’s happened off-screen. Perez-Bannen plays Camilo at an even-keel, which prevents scenes from swerving off into bathos or silly comedy, and though some of Castro’s early antics are a bit much, she engages the viewer with a character who brings out the best in others.

It is hoped that Schweitzer and Castro have gotten their obsession with the zoom lens out of their system with this production. Otherwise, vidshot pic looks excellent, and Silvio Paredes’ score and some selected tunes cook up an emotional audio mix.

Time Off

Chile

Production

A Follow Films production. (International sales: Follow Films, Santiago.) Executive producers, Ricardo Saieh, Pablo Solis, Francisca Schweitzer. Directed, written, edited by Francisca Schweitzer, Pablo Solis.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Christian McManus; music, Silvio Paredes; production designer, Rodrigo Duque Motta; costume designer, Maria de la Luz Briceno; sound (Dolby Digital), Teddy Gonzalez; sound designer, Miguel Hormazabal; assistant director, Waldo Salgado. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival, Jan. 11, 2006. (Also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Francisco Perez-Bannen, Carolina Castro, Sigrid Alegria, Luis Gnecco. (Spanish, English dialogue)
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