A well-made psychological study of one woman’s reaction to midlife angst, Argentine helmer Sergio Renan’s “This Was Solitude” would have benefited from engaging the emotions as much as it does the mind. Pic displays bucketloads of craft, but the lightly ironical touch found in the eponymous, award-winning novel — a classic of recent Spanish literature — is crucially absent. Film is a fine vehicle for the talents of underrated local thesp Charo Lopez, the kind of actress for whom Spanish cinema has too few roles, but the low-profile supporting cast, unfashionable theme and staid treatment means pic is likely to feel lonely outside the fest circuit.
After the death of her mother, fiftysomething Elena (Lopez) discovers through her diaries and tapes that the old woman, like herself, was locked in solitude. Elena retreats into her mother’s belongings and emerges on the other side determined to face the fact that her relationships with businessman husband Enrique (Ramon Langa) and daughter Merce (Ingrid Rubio) are not working, while her brother Juan (Carlos Hipolito) and sister Mercedes (Ana Fernandez) regard her with disdain.
Elena anonymously hires a private detective to trail her husband and finds he is having an affair with a young colleague, Barbara (Kira Miro). The detective agency is run by Juanjo (Alvaro de Luna), who puts youngster Doro (Inaki Font) on the case. Doro is terminally ill, with solitude problems of his own.
The twist in this otherwise straightforward, nicely paced tale comes when Elena asks Doro to tail her and file detailed reports on what he sees. Doro starts to fall for Elena from a distance — and Elena starts to view her life from aliberating perspective.
Best scenes are the spark-striking marital showdowns between Lopez and Langa. Lopez does well to win sympathy for the wealthy, self-centered and spoiled Elena; at times, it seems, she has nothing to lose but her checkbook. Standing in rooms while listening to tapes and making it all look interesting is a tough job for any thesp, but Lopez pulls it off. Other characters, though all well-played, are not around enough to make much impact.
Jazz based score by Pablo Ortiz in nicely unobtrusive. For the record, in 1975, Renan’s “The Truce” — on which co-scripter Aida Bortnik also worked — was Argentine cinema’s first Oscar nominee, for foreign-lingo film.