Likable young cast does most of the heavy lifting to sustain interest given the script's rambling structure.

Three troubled young people hole up for the holidays in a semi-abandoned house in Chilean helmer Sebastian Lelio’s sophomore outing “Navidad.” Likable young cast does most of the heavy lifting to sustain interest given the script’s rambling structure — it’s no surprise the story grew out of improvisation. Pic will need an early present of very good luck from Santa to make much of an impact beyond the fest circuit.

Young lovers Aurora (upcoming thesp Manuela Martelli, “Machuca”) and Ale (Diego Riz) break into a house in the mountains just above Santiago on Christmas Eve. Aurora’s had a fling recently with woman, and, although she insists it doesn’t really mean anything, she’s distant with Ale. When he sulks and starts to leave, they discover 15-year-old runaway Alicia (Alicia Rodriguez), a diabetic, passed out in the greenhouse.  Once they revive her, they find out that, like both Aurora and Ale, Alicia has some serious issues with her parents. Pic makes a well-intentioned stab at depicting the anomie of today’s metrosexual kids, but even an eventual threesome scene never quite dispels the lassitude that pervades the whole empanada. Tech package is serviceable.

Navidad

Chile-France

Production

A Horamagica (Chile)/Divine Prods. (France) production, in association with Divine Prods., Zoofilms, Cine Sur, Cinefondation, MC Films, Chilean Ministry of Culture and the Arts. (International sales: MC Films Chile, Santiago.) Produced by Ursula Budnik. Executive producers, Budnik, Pablo Mehler, Guillaume Benski. Directed by Sebastian Lelio. Screenplay, Lelio, Gonzalo Maza.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Benjamin Echazarreta; editor, Lelio, Soledad Salfate; art director, Rodrigo Bazaes. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 21, 2009. Spanish dialogue. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Manuela Martelli, Alicia Rodriguez, Diego Ruiz.

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