Another leisurely told shaggy-dog story from Uruguayan helmer/co-writer Pablo Stoll Ward ("Hiroshima"), "3" extends its episodic drollery about 30 minutes beyond what the material warrants, thus repping far too much of a good thing.

Another leisurely told shaggy-dog story from Uruguayan helmer/co-writer Pablo Stoll Ward (“Hiroshima”), “3” extends its episodic drollery about 30 minutes beyond what the material warrants, thus repping far too much of a good thing. Even though it never adds up to more than the sum of its parts, the strongly crafted, endearingly performed pic could appeal to buyers who ordered other Control Z productions such as “Whisky,” “Acne” and “Gigante.”

The action unfolds via a series of vignettes featuring the separate (and sometimes ensemble) doings of divorced Montevideo couple Graciela (Sara Bessio, elegantly warm) and Rodolfo (Humberto de Vargas), and their pretty teen daughter, Anita (Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy, impressive in her first leading role).

Between work and exercise class, busy Graciela keeps a vigil for her ailing, elderly aunt. While waiting at the hospital, she enjoys a flirtation with Dustin (Nestor Guzzini), a paunchy, hairy nerd remarkably similar in looks and interests to her ex-husband.

Obsessive neatnik dentist Rodolfo loves soccer and big leafy green plants. After he leaves never-seen wife No. 2 (who, in a running joke, is represented by overflowing ashtrays), he gradually insinuates himself back into the apartment he once shared with Graciela and Anita.

Anita, meanwhile, is going through a rebellious phase. She delights in challenging authority, skipping school and using her seductive looks to alternately taunt and tempt young men.

As with “Whisky” and “Acne,” both also lensed by Barbara Alvarez and production-designed by Gonzalo Delgado Galiana (one of “3’s” co-writers), clever framing choices allow Stoll Ward to milk situational humor. Some of the biggest laughs come as he plays with what is happening outside the frame.

In another stylistic hallmark of Control Z productions, the likable lead performances are delicately stylized with a soupcon of Aki Kaurismaki deadpan.

Craft package is high quality; the hot music track includes choice cuts from Astroboy, El Cuarteto de Nos, Chicos Electricos, Los Delfines, Fernando Cabrera, Jimmy Helms and Opa.

For the record, the helmer used the name Pablo Stoll on his previous credits.

3

Uruguay-Argentina-Germany-Chile

Production

A Medio & Medio Films (in Uruguay) release of a Control Z Films, Rizoma Films, Pandora Filmproduktion, Kine production with the support of Programa Ibermedia, Icau, MVD Socio Audiovisual, Fona, WIP Punta del Este, Incaa, Arte-ZDF, Filmforderung Hamburg Schleiswig-Holstein, Film und Media Stiftung NRW, Media, World Cinema Fund. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Fernando Epstein, Augustina Chiarino. Directed by Pablo Stoll Ward. Screenplay, Gonzalo Delgado Galiana, Stoll Ward, from a story by Galiana, Juan Pablo Rebella, Stoll Ward.

Crew

Camera (color), Barbara Alvarez; editors, Fernando Epstein, Stoll Ward; music, Sebastian del Muro Eiras, Reverb; production designer, Gonzalo Delgado Galiana; costume designer, Emilia Carlevaro; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel Yafalian. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 21, 2012. Running time: 119 MIN.

With

Sara Bessio, Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy, Humberto de Vargas, Nestor Guzzini, Matias Ganz, Carolina Centurion, Ines Bortagaray, Santiago Pedrero, Fabian Arenillas. (Spanish dialogue)

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