An impressive debut by Uruguayan writer-helmer Enrique Buchichio, “Leo’s Room” drifts in a laid-back, almost dreamy way toward edgy subjects usually accompanied by hysterical angst: gay awakening and the death of a child. The narrative concerns an affable young grad student who, dazed and confused, hesitates to commit to anything, including his own homosexuality. Through Leo’s titular room and his Hamlet-like indecisiveness, Buchichio filters another, half-told story, that of a girlfriend from grade school who is drowning in guilt and grief. It’s a delicately balanced mood piece that could segue from gay to arthouse venues.
After being dumped by his female lover for repeated failures to get it up, Leo (Martin Rodriguez) isolates himself from the university scene, holes up in his digs and cruises the Internet for gay alternatives. Though fearful and furtive when tentatively exploring his newfound preference, he encounters no discrimination whatsoever — on the contrary, he is surrounded by instant, unconditional acceptance.
Even before he breathes a word of his homosexuality, his mother (Mirella Pascual) declares she only hopes that he meets a nice girl … or boy. And the first person Leo picks up, Seba (Gerardo Begerez), turns out to be a keeper — handsome, loving and extremely attracted to Leo. Indeed, Seba’s only flaw lies in his ease with his gayness and desire to share his lifestyle with Leo, who is unwilling to leave his room, much less the closet.
Leo sublets his single room from Felipe (Rafael Soliwoda), a tall, thin couch potato hooked on mind-altering substances. Felipe sits between Leo and the portal to the outside world like some slacker Cerebus — a comic-horror portent of what Leo’s isolation might someday spiral into. But Buchichio’s oblique approach to character leaves nothing to stereotype: Beneath Felipe’s stoner obliviousness can be glimpsed flashes of acute perception and undercurrents of rage.
When Leo encounters former childhood sweetheart Caro (Cecilia Cosero), chronically depressed due to a recent family tragedy, her neediness triggers immediate responsiveness. It allows Leo to offer affection without sexual pressure, while Caro’s total funk makes his hesitation appear positively decisive. Oddly incurious about each other’s crises, they re-create their simple childhood comforts, swapping eclectic music and snuggling platonically. Their relationship resists moral closure; whatever help they afford one other is more the result of chance friendship than any?therapeutic resolution of their problems.
Pedro Luque’s lensing paints a social context that is neither funky nor bourgeois; this and the pic’s other generally excellent tech credits further Buchichio’s limpid vision of a quasi-amniotic state of grace.