Justin Falvey

Breaking up is hard to do in Barcelona-set minimalist drama "About Crying."

Breaking up is hard to do in Barcelona-set minimalist drama “About Crying,” the third feature from young Chilean helmer Matias Bize (“In Bed”). Preserving unities of time, place and action, Spanish production reverses the concept of Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” with a couple’s long night together potentially their last rather than their first. Stylized structure and leisurely transition from silence to true communication are slow to catch fire, but pic does have an ultimate poignancy. Further fest action seems certain, with arthouse play a possibility, particularly in Spanish-speaking countries.

Film opens with Vera (producer Vicenta Ndongo) and Alejandro (Alex Brendemuhl) lingering silently over a finished meal. Afterward, they walk together, still without talking, obviously reluctant to part.

Neither speaks until some 10 minutes in, when Alejandro relates a long story he’s never shared before. His monologue is matched by a more revealing one from Vera shortly before the finale.

It’s Vera who wants to end their relationship. At a party, she seeks support for her decision from best friend Mara (Toni Gonzalez), while Alejandro denies to his mates the existence of any problems.

Pic grows ever more engaging after the midpoint, with a charming scene in which the lovers imagine messages they will send each other about their future lives. Later, a quirky street incident catalyzes some physical action.

Film’s highly controlled look and structure operate on several levels. For example, as time passes, the central pair move from the highest point in Barcelona down to the sea. From scene to scene, music expressing the characters’ emotional state alternates with just ambient sound.

Lead perfs by Ndongo and Brendemuhl gain in energy during the second half as their characters have greater opportunity to play off each other. Ending scores as both positive and heartbreaking. Overall tech package is smooth.

About Crying

Spain

Production

A DiBa Films, Mom Prods. presentation. Produced by Alexis Birras, Nestor Domenech, Vicenta Ndongo. Executive producers, Montserrat Marti, Oriol Ferrer, Matias Bize. Directed by Matias Bize. Screenplay, Matias Cornejo Bunger, Bize.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Gabriel Diaz; editor, Sergi Dies; music, Diego Fontecilla, Rodrigo Jarque; art directors, Iris Santamaria, Carla Solanes; sound (Dolby), Albert Gay, Roberto Espinoza. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Filmmakers of the Present -- competing), Aug. 4, 2007. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Alex Brendemuhl, Vicenta Ndongo, Toni Gonzalez, Paul Berrondo, Andres Herrera.
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