Another painstakingly shot but uneventful exercise in the less-is-more style of Argentine arthouse cinema, Ariel Rotter’s “The Other” short-circuits an intriguing premise about the Pirandellian identity crisis of a middle-aged man about to become a father with a story that flatlines soon after takeoff. The theme of feeling dissatisfied with one’s life, explored more vigorously in the director’s debut “Just for Today,” plays out mechanically in elegant fixed frame set-ups bereft of narrative or stylistic risk.
Yet there are deep themes lurking somewhere below the smooth surface, and film will find supporters among those who like to ferret them out. The wide-open screenplay gives Rotter a chance to inject some lovely, unexpected moments that vibrate with poetry. Most auds, however, will balk at being given no chance to get involved in the protag’s mental processes, and pic’s horizons are likely to be limited to the more curious fest fans.
Though saddled with a heavy responsibility in providing for the care of his aged, infirm father (Osvaldo Bonet), 46-year-old lawyer Juan Desouza (Julio Chavez) seems fairly content with his life, or at least resigned to it. The spark that sets him off lies in pic’s most imaginative scene, an opening eye exam in which his wife tells him she’s expecting.
Evidently he’s not all that delighted, though it’s hard to tell what’s going on in his mind with all psychology written out of the screenplay. But when, during a routine business trip to a small town, he suddenly checks into two different hotels under false names, one deduces something must be up.
Juan appropriates both identities from dead men: a seat companion on the bus who abruptly dies, and the former owner of some property he is notarizing. Like everything else in the film, the viewer is left to fill in the blanks and give these circumstances a meaning. Film wanders on with its protag until closing on an upbeat note.
One waits for the day when solid thesp Julio Chavez (“The Red Bear,” “The Custodian”) will be given a fleshed-out role to play that is not lonely and anti-social. His sensitive face is the only guide viewers have to make something of the slight events the Rotter respectfully recounts with his fixed frame camera and slow, deliberate pacing.