Berlin Film Review: ‘You’ll Never Be Alone’

youll-never-be-alone
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

A well-acted but meandering fact-based drama of a horrific gay bashing and society’s disregard of the crime.

A worthy message is embedded in “You’ll Never Be Alone,” an unsatisfactory vehicle loosely based on the horrific, homophobic murder of Daniel Zamudio. Musician-turned-helmer Alex Anwandter means to shift focus onto a society that barely blinks an eye when a young gay man is savaged, yet his script meanders into side plots that are never properly developed, and his profligate use of his own musical compositions overwhelms too many scenes. Strong performances along with an inevitable sense of empathy will do much to win over audiences, and the Teddy special jury prize ensures “Alone” will be embraced by the queer film circuit.

With Juan (Sergio Hernandez, “Gloria”) working long hours as manager of a struggling mannequin factory, his 18-year-old son, Pablo (Andrew Bargsted), has a high degree of independence. That suits the teen just fine, since he’s freer to go out in drag and have assignations with Felix (Jaime Leiva), the closeted nephew of busybody neighbor Lucy (Gabriela Hernandez).

Despite bullying by neighborhood tough Martin (Benjamin Westfall), Pablo largely does his own thing in this working-class enclave, with Mari (Astrid Roldan) serving as his prized pal and confidante. Then one day he’s chased by Martin and a friend; Felix stops Pablo from fleeing, a frightened Mari runs off, and Pablo is viciously stomped upon until he’s comatose.

Juan is shaken to the core, but gets no help from the people around him. His insurance will barely pay a dime, and the hospital seems devoid of staff. The one doctor he speaks with, Ana (Antonia Zegers), is a prickly lesbian who offers her sympathy grudgingly. On top of everything, his boss (Edgardo Bruna) is selling the company.

“You’ll Never Be Alone” looks to draw attention to the kind of callous society that lets such heinous crimes happen, yet Anwandter struggles to make any real statement about either deep-grained homophobia or apathy. His depopulated scenes already cut Juan and Pablo off — does Juan really have no one to talk to except nutty Lucy, whose insensitivity becomes a stand-in for the public’s passive intolerance? Is Mari really Pablo’s only friend, notwithstanding an uninspired scene showing Juan visiting Pablo’s dance school? Even more problematic is a half-hearted subplot about Juan’s business failings, which suffers from sloppy writing and editing that fails to coherently integrate the storyline. Making Juan a mannequin manufacturer allows for expectedly creepy shots, but the pic misses the opportunity to express some deeper parallel between real humans and these mass-produced effigies.

Holding the film together is the always watchable Hernandez, projecting the downbeat energy of a sad working stiff who allowed life to pass him by without really noticing. Bargsted is an appealing presence, far brighter than the dun-colored walls of his dreary home, rendered as ugly as possible by both the production and lighting designers. Music tracks call far too much attention to themselves.

Berlin Film Review: 'You'll Never Be Alone'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 16, 2016. Running time: 81 MIN. (Original title: “Nunca vas a estar solo”)

Production

(Chile) An Araucaria Cine, 5 AM Producciones production, in association with Anima Pictures, Escuela de Cine UDD, Ortega Maniquies. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Isabel Orellana Guarello. Executive producers, Daniel Dreifuss, Fernanda Montesi, Alex Anwandter.

Crew

Directed, written by Alex Anwandter. Camera (color), Matias Illanes; editors, Felipe Galvez, Anwandter; music, Anwandter; production designer, Andrea Contreras; costume designer, Natalia Geisse; sound, Diego Aguilar, Roberto Espinoza; assistant director, Antonia Renard; casting, Ivan Parra Reinoso.

With

Sergio Hernandez, Andrew Bargsted, Jaime Leiva, Benjamin Westfall, Gabriela Hernandez, Astrid Roldan, Edgardo Bruna, Antonia Zegers, Camila Hirane, Octavio Navarrete.

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