The fixed camera of “The Retiree” adds to the sense of time’s stoppage in the prodigal protag’s hometown, but helmer Jairo Boisier fills his debut with so much humanity and charm that few, apart from keen observers, will take notice. Shot on a minuscule budget yet perfectly suited to the bigscreen, the pic tells of a woman’s return to the sticks and her struggle to move forward with her life when everyone around her is blocked. Thesped with nuance and aplomb, “The Retiree” will delight fest auds and could generate streaming traffic provided the word gets out.
Fabiola (Paola Lattus) returns from Santiago to the small town of Los Andes with her tail between her legs. After a few years spent acting in low-budget porn movies in the big city, she’s come home, aged 30, to build a life. Ambition, however, is an unknown word in these parts. Her widowed, just-retired father, Rogelio (Rogelio Jose Soza), is content to watch time go by, while her po-faced older sister, Gina (Georgina Catalina Saavedra), disapproves of everything Fabiola does. Undoubtedly there’s jealousy here: Fabiola went to Santiago while big sis stayed behind with Dad, allowing life and youth to run away from her.
Job prospects in Los Andes are dire, but Fabiola gets hired by Moises (Daniel Antivilo) to manage his junkyard. Moises’ intentions aren’t honorable, and he becomes angry at her rejection of his advances and her budding friendship with his 16-year-old son, Tarantula (Hernando Lattus). Convinced Fabiola’s corrupting his boy, Moises fires her and forbids them from seeing each other.
It in no ways impugns Paola Lattus’ looks to say she’s no one’s conception of a porn star. Surely that’s deliberate: Boisier refreshingly makes little of this side of her, and while the townsfolk might show a prurient smile, there’s less the sense of her having been “wicked” and more that she moved to the capital and came back with little to show for it. Calling her the retiree is something of a joke, though it’s a poignant one, speaking of a retirement from life as much as from a profession.
Gentle humor suffuses every moment, alternately wry and straightforward. Fabiola doesn’t take herself too seriously, and there’s a marvelous scene in which she unself-consciously dances to a song as Gina looks on. Also beautifully caught is the relationship between Fabiola and Tarantula, on her side perfectly platonic, while he’s at the mercy of teenage hormones. Paolo Lattus is a superb actress, understated yet always vibrant.
Lensing is accomplished though economical, and while the digital quality isn’t perfect, the whole is done with such skill that few will quibble. “The Retiree” is the kind of pic generally called “a small film,” but there’s nothing small about its heart.