Matching stylish originality with a refreshing lack of moralizing, “Kept and Dreamless” keeps the banner of Argentine independent cinema flying high in this tale about a precocious daughter and her junkie mother caught up in the country’s economic crisis. Co-directors Vera Fogwill and Martin Desalvo make a noteworthy feature film bow, laced with humor and high drama. Although there are occasional lapses into convention with some supporting characters, the main storyline remains honestly down-to-earth. However, critical support will be needed to get the film’s subtle virtues of strong characters and slight story across to paying audiences.
Pic’s major plus is the poignant bond established between nine-year-old Eugenia (Lucia Snieg) and her coked-up mom, Florencia (Fogwill), with the bright little girl taking on a maternal role towards her irresponsible, obsessive-neurotic parent. Florencia has long fallen out with her own middle-class mother (Mirta Busnelli) after tricking her out of cash for fake abortions and the like.
Now pregnant again, and with no idea who the father is, Florencia is far too jaded and exhausted to take care of her daughter. Eugenia miraculously keeps the household going, even learning how to repair broken appliances. Though old beyond her years, she still remains a child at heart, in need of a safe living environment.
Florencia emerges from her catatonic state to take a job as a day maid to her former best friend, now a rich but frustrated housewife. Film’s eclecticism gets the better of it in these scenes, which are played for easy laughs, like those featuring the kooky widow next door who keeps a medicine chest full of prescription mood drugs and cheats at the pension window. Pic’s memorable moments lie elsewhere.
Film is particularly successful in conveying a hip, post-modern feminine viewpoint on everything from menstruation and pregnancy to child-rearing. As the film progresses, the women come to each other’s rescue in a multitude of ways. Though in Fogwill’s screenplay men are mostly cast in negative roles like pushers and absent ex’s, Eugenia’s d.j. dad makes a surprise appearance in a satisfying, realistically complex close.
The exceptionally well-cast Snieg and Fogwill give film a strong central core of ironic affection. Nicolas Trovato’s cinematography veers from beautifully shot, harmonious color contrasts to witty pop hues, hinting at the reserves of imagination these women possess.