'I Miss You'

A teen in Argentina needs to cope with his charismatic brother's disappearance.

An Argentinian teen needs help coping with his charismatic brother’s disappearance following the country’s 1976 military coup in Fabian Hofman’s atmospheric but sketchy sophomore drama, “I Miss You.” There remain thousands of moving stories about the junta’s appalling record and its effect on the average citizen, and while the helmer subtly reps family dynamics, he never quite rises to the challenge of depicting a developing young man’s struggle to assert his personality in such turbulent times. The script’s lack of incisiveness is likely to relegate the pic to fests and showcases south of the U.S. border.

High schooler Javier (Fermin Volcoff) looks up to older brother Adrian (Martin Slipak), who leads a small band of young political dissidents while also serving in the army. Everyone always asks about Adrian, and even their grandma (Ana Ofelia Murguia), in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, confuses Javier with her favorite grandson.

Following the military takeover, dad Renan (Luis Ziembrowski) and mom Natalia (Susana Pampin) brace themselves for difficult times, hoping that a low profile will get the family through the coming difficulties. While it’s casually inserted, the family’s Jewish heritage means there’s an undercurrent in which memories of the Holocaust, just over 30 years earlier, form an unspoken but ever-present reminder of past catastrophes.

When Adrian disappears, Javier is sent away to relatives in Mexico (the scene in which the usually tightly wound Renan says goodbye is one of the most effective). Apparently (and inexplicably), Javier isn’t enrolled in school, so he whiles away his days doing nothing and feeling even more like an observer than he did in Buenos Aires, where his brother took the spotlight. A chance meeting with Adrian’s cohorts Oscar (Santiago Pedrero) and Marti (Mariano Bertolini) brings a comforting familiarity while also reminding him that his brother’s popularity and value to the cause diminish his own feelings of self-worth.

Unfortunately, build-up and tension are relatively lacking, and the addition of a couple of scenes in which Javier discovers sex fail to develop a sense of the multifarious pressures of the midteen years. Javier’s situation is eminently worthy of empathy, and it’s painful to watch when his grandmother excitedly embraces him thinking he’s Adrian, but too many sequences lack drive or import, and the passage of time, especially in Mexico, is poorly signaled.

Thesping is uniformly strong and visuals are the pic’s most notable element, with Alberto Anaya’s initially nervous handheld lensing moving to calmer, more contemplative shots. The slightly muddled textures resulting from the Super 16 blow-up to 35mm add to the sense of period, properly evoked both via art design and darkened tonalities.

I Miss You

Mexico-Argentina

Production

A Filmele Producciones, Imcine-Fidecine (Mexico)/BinCine y Video, INCAA (Argentina) production, in cooperation with Ibermedia. (International sales: Latinofusion, Guadalajara.) Produced by Fabian Hofman, Cristian Pauls, Eduardo Yedlin. Executive producer, Juan Carlos Restrepo. Directed by Fabian Hofman. Screenplay, Diana Cardozo.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Alberto Anaya; editor, Miguel Schverdfinger; music, Hermanos Rincon; production designer, Andre Krassoievitch; costume designers, Monica Neumaler, Romina Azzigotti; sound (Dolby Digital), Lena Esquenazi, Pablo Tamez, Rodrigo Merolla; associate producer, Aleph Media, Fernando Sokolowicz. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation 14plus), Feb. 16, 2010. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Fermin Volcoff, Martin Slipak, Luis Ziembrowski, Susana Pampin, Alvaro Guerrero, Carmen Beato, Isela Vega, Sofia Espinosa, Amelia Zapata, Santiago Pedrero, Mariano Bertolini, Ana Ofelia Murguia.

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