Thoroughly engaging, off-the-cuff perfs by a winsome cast neatly counterpoint this uncompromising Argentine aestheti.

Argentinean helmer Marco Berger’s debut feature, “Plan B,” borrows the gimmicky plot conceit that improbably fuels numerous American romantic comedies — the straight guy pretending to be gay in order to get the girl — and takes it to its logical conclusion. Thoroughly engaging, off-the-cuff perfs by a winsome cast neatly counterpoint Berger’s uncompromising aesthetic, while the film’s zero-budget, HD-shot minimalism lends itself to comedy surprisingly well, accentuating the start-and-stop rhythms of unwilling attraction. Amply rewarding for patient viewers, pic’s leisurely pace and absurdist sexual waffling make it unlikely multiplex fodder, but “Plan B” should score in gay and indie venues.

Dumped by g.f. Laura (Mercedes Quinteros), Bruno (Manuel Vignau) desperately wants to reconnect. The two still occasionally enjoy companionable sex and conversation, but now she is committed to Pablo (Lucas Ferraro). Having heard from a mutual friend that Pablo once swung both ways, Bruno resolves to seduce him away from Laura, even though he sees himself as strictly straight.

Bruno doesn’t count on his growing friendship with Pablo, which deepens every time they meet. They discover mutual interests and share a sense of having been pals for years — or, more specifically, of having been best buddies at the age of 12 (not coincidentally, at the onset of puberty). And because Bruno has already made tentative overtures in pursuit of his plan, the possibility of a more overtly intimate relationship hovers over their innocent enthusiasm. The situation is further complicated when Pablo admits that he lied about his rumored gay experimentation to appear more sophisticated. The two clueless men thereupon embark on an awkward tango of desire, as touching as it is funny.

Vignau and Ferraro navigate their hang-loose roles with pitch-perfect ease, maintaining their characters’ immense likability through ridiculously attenuated attraction/repulsion interludes. Vignau, in particular, brings a naturalism to his moment-to-moment struggle with self-image that is a joy to behold.

Berger sets the constant emotional flux of his characters against a grounded sense of place, as the guys keep returning to the same narrow slices of apartment terrace, locker room or waterfront, each stopover evocatively framed with casual-seeming precision. Establishing shots of apartment buildings against the sky at different hours of the day serve less to denote time and space than to indicate the larger rhythms and sensory context of Buenos Aires.

“Plan B” depicts falling in love as a happy liberation from gender-based preconceptions and fixed scenarios, but refrains from extrapolating a moral. Rather, the film’s strength lies in its heightened awareness of momentary minutiae, imperceptible shifts of feeling mirrored in slight variations of composition and light.

Plan B

Argentina

Production

A Rendez-vous Pictures presentation of an Oh my Gomez! production. (International sales: Rendez-vous Pictures, Paris.) Produced by Mariano Contreras, Ivan Bein. Directed, written, edited by Marco Berger.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Tomas Perez Silver; music, Pedro Irusta; production designer, Martin Cuinat; art director, Laura Martinez; sound (Dolby SR), Lucas Dentone. Reviewed at NewFest, New York, June 6, 2010. (Also in Frameline, Outfest; Rome, London film festivals.) Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Manuel Vignau, Lucas Ferraro, Mercedes Quinteros, Damian Canduci, Ana Lucia Anthony, Carolina Stegmayer.

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