Review: ‘Empty Nest’

As bereft of interesting ideas as its slightly dyspeptic playwright subject, Daniel Burman's "Empty Nest" flails to comprehend a married couple whose children have left home.

As bereft of interesting ideas as its slightly dyspeptic playwright subject, Daniel Burman’s “Empty Nest” flails to comprehend a married couple whose children have left home. Playing at just over 90 minutes but feeling twice as long, Burman’s latest attempts several ill-judged leaps into fantasy that are meant to reflect a man’s psychological confusion in deep middle age. Without any fresh spin on a mightily overworked theme, pic will follow a healthy Argentine gross this spring with a wan fall-fest rollout and limited interest from upscale markets.

One of Argentina’s most famed dramatists, Leonardo (Oscar Martinez) is beset by a mild form of writer’s block and the prospect of living with wife Martha (Cecilia Roth, incandescent as always) in a much emptier apartment with their three kids grown up and gone. Last to split was Julia (Ines Efron), who has married novelist Ianib (Ron Richter) and moved to his home in Israel.

As Martha gets the itch to return to university, Leonardo doodles some ideas for a friend’s ad campaign and develops a wandering eye for younger women, particularly dental surgeon Violeta (Eugenia Capizzano). In between his little obsessions with croissants, remote-controlled airplanes and secondhand smoke, Leonardo consults a neuroscientist (Arturo Goetz) about his possible failure to distinguish fantasy from reality.

His fantasies take the form of badly staged sequences, such as Leonardo pursuing Violeta through Buenos Aires’ Abasto shopping mall to the sound of Ravel’s “Bolero” (complete with dancing chorus, no less). Impoverished faux-Fellini is not an unkind term for much of this.

This is certainly the oldest-feeling film from one of the younger Argentine auteurs, an awkward case of — as Burman has noted in interviews — how a thirtysomething director imagines a fiftysomething’s life might be.

Where another actor would have been tempted to go over the top, Martinez manages to underplay his suddenly struggling writer’s behavior, and the few moments between him and Roth suggest what a film actually confronting the dimensions of an autumnal marriage might have been. Capizzano makes a vivid impression.

Burman does at least display fine musical taste, choosing jazz pianist Nico Cota’s tasty licks to decorate the soundtrack, along with music by Santiago Rios.

Empty Nest



A Burman Dubcovsky Cine production, in association with Wanda Vision/Paradis Films/Classic. (International sales: Bavaria Films Intl., Geiselgasteig, Germany.) Produced by Diego Dubcovsky, Daniel Burman. Executive producer, Sebastian Ponce. Co-producer, Jose Maria Morales. Directed, written by Daniel Burman.


Camera (color), Hugo Colace; editor, Alejandro Brodersohn; music, Nico Cota, Santiago Rios; production designer, Aili Chen; costume designer, Roberta Pesci; sound (Dolby Digital), Luciano Bertone; sound designer, Juan Ferro; casting, Natalia Urruty. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 5, 2008. (Also in San Sebastian Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 91 MIN.


Oscar Martinez, Cecilia Roth, Arturo Goetz, Ines Efron, Eugenia Capizzano, Jean Pierre Noher, Ron Richter. (Spanish dialogue)

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety