As agreeable and inconsequential as the trinkets sold by its winningly kooky heroine, "Lonely Loneliness" works like a charm.

As agreeable and inconsequential as the trinkets sold by its winningly kooky heroine, “Lonely Loneliness” works like a charm. Stories about phobic Argentinean twentysomethings torn between lovers are legion, but the twist here is that lead Ines Efron is torn between someone and no one. Pared-down, perfectly formed and understanding that true worth lies in attention to psychological detail, “Loneliness” is let down only by a deja-vu feel and intermittent longueurs, but nonetheless reps a strong opening hand for debutantes Martin Carranza and Victoria Galardi, and deserves to find friends at fests.

Hypochondriac Soledad (Efron, whose character’s name means “loneliness”) has just broken up with her Kurt Cobain look-alike boyfriend Nico (Nicolas Pauls). She’s seen throwing his harmonica out of a window to him and watching with satisfaction as it smashes. Soledad spends her time between the interior design store which she owns along with Javier (Diego Velazquez), and visiting her mother Elsa (Monica Gonzaga), who needs an operation.

But as a hypochondriac, Soledad is happiest in pharmacies, debating which blood pressure meter looks best. Her father (Ricardo Darin, who played Efron’s father in transgender-themed “XXY”) appears in a dramatically superfluous scene that nevertheless could improve the pic’s commercial chances.

Despite her intentions not to have another relationship for a couple of years, another Nicolas (Fabian Vena) approaches Soledad in a cafe and, without quite knowing why, she drifts slowly into a relationship with him. The final scene elegantly pulls everything together.

Soledad, a combination of goofiness and grace, appears in every scene, worry perpetually visible in her wide, clear eyes. Efron carries the pressure well, considering that this willfully independent woman doesn’t have a single friend to unburden herself to. Though the pic always teeters on the edge of Gallic cutesiness, Efron guarantees it never falls.

Dialogue is often spot-on and sometimes laugh-aloud, but conversations through the middle reels are at times annoyingly over-extended, particularly given the pic’s brief running time. Running gags are exploited to the max, in particular one about a broken toilet. Another, wearier gag is our unfortunate heroine’s relationship with her doorman.

Score consists mainly of melodic, melancholy pop, ending with a stripped-back, unexpected version of Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.”

Lovely Loneliness

Argentina

Production

A Rizoma Films, Filmsuez, Diego Radivoy production. Produced by Natacha Cervi, Hernan Musaluppi. Executive producer, Silvana Di Francesco. Directed by Martin Carranza, Victoria Galardi. Screenplay, Galardi.

Crew

Camera (color), Julian Ledesma; editor, Pablo Barbieri; music, Nico Cota; art director, Patricia Pernia; sound (Dolby Digital), No Problem. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi New Directors), Sept. 26, 2008. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Ines Efron, Nicolas Pauls, Fabian Vena, Ricardo Darin, Diego Velazquez, Monica Gonzaga.
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