Beginning and ending with a funeral, tyro Chilean helmer Julio Jorquera’s moody feature “My Last Round” concerns the love affair between a middle-aged boxer and a morose young restaurant worker. Jorquera gets the hard things right: the punishing yet exhilarating boxing matches, the warmth and ease of the older man vs. the social awkwardness of the younger, the tenderly impassioned sex between the two. But simple exposition eludes him: Characters’ relationships remain obscure, and it is often unclear whether days, weeks or years have passed between scenes. Nevertheless, convincing perfs and strong atmospherics should ensure the pic’s welcome on the gay fest circuit.
In the misty gray-greenness of his small southern Chilean town, young Hugo (Hector Morales), peering from his window, furtively watches Octavio (Roberto Farias) on his training runs. Hanging around the boxing gym where Octavio works out, Hugo soon becomes an accepted if non-athletic fixture. His attraction to Octavio proves mutual; Octavio even makes the first move, a stolen kiss during a group camping trip, but the men cannot continue their affair on provincial home turf.
They move into an apartment in Santiago, Octavio pursuing his other career as a barber while Hugo looks for a job. But the couple stays isolated, far from any gay context and possibly unaware that one may exist. Any friends they make individually must be kept separate and secret from their private life together.
Hugo finds work in a pet-supply store, where he interacts closely with a lively young woman named Jenny (Manuela Martelli), alone capable of coaxing a spontaneous smile from the dour young man. Their friendship veers into something more romantic, Hugo greatly enjoying the freedom of openly showing his feelings and having them accepted by Jenny’s friends and family. But when Jenny and Octavio find out about each other there are some emotional bills to pay.
Jorquera adopts the old boxing chestnut about a medical condition that makes another fight potentially fatal (recently used effectively in Warren Leight’s cable series “Lights Out”) to up the dramatic ante as betrayal drives Octavio to risk everything to feel the rush of victory again.
But Jorquera’s storytelling omits any sense of how much time passes between events or scenes, a decision that tends to flatten the drama, fragmenting it into separate moments that never really cohere. The lack of connective tissue mitigates the momentum of the characters’ emotional trajectory, otherwise brilliantly conveyed through Farias’ intensely contained performance and lenser Sergio Armstrong’s vibrantly charged compositions.