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Slamdance Film Review: ‘Rezeta’

Fernando Frias' debut is a light and sprightly doodle of a romantic dramedy.

With:

Rezeta Veliu, Roger Mendoza, Paulina Davila, Emiliano Becerril, Sebastian Cordova. (Spanish, English dialogue)

Suffused with an air of freewheeling improvisation, “Rezeta” is a light and sprightly doodle of a romantic dramedy, at once effortlessly engaging and unabashedly inconsequential as it details a close encounter between an Albanian-born model and a Mexican punk rocker. First-time feature filmmaker Fernando Frias reportedly cast first-timers and non-pros in roles more or less based on themselves, and rewrote his scenario (with, presumably, input from his leads) repeatedly throughout the shooting. For some, that may sound like a blueprint for self-indulgent disaster. But the final product could find an appreciative audience in selected theatrical bookings and home-screen platforms.

Rising model Rezeta (Rezeta Veliu) arrives in Mexico with little money, few contacts and hardly any knowledge of the local lingo. But none of that impedes her professional progress. And while she’s less than lucky in her first two choices of romantic partners, she appears to find Mr. Right when her friendship with Alex (Roger Mendoza), a musician who moonlights as a maintenance worker, slowly develops into a living-together relationship. (A nice touch: They first meet when he shows up to clean her trailer during a fashion shoot, and connect while talking about their tattoos.)

With blithe disregard for character consistency and narrative momentum, “Rezeta” skips from one scene to the next, indirectly indicating the passage of time through Rezeta’s increasing mastery of Spanish and the variegations of Alex’s facial hair. It’s easily to believe that everyone involved simply made everything up as they went along, introducing plot developments or personality traits whenever inspiration struck. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear that Alex is indeed a punk rocker until almost an hour into the movie.

And while there’s a mildly surprising amount of graphic detail in the early scenes depicting Rezeta’s sexual exploits, the model’s relationship with Alex is depicted in such a circumspect fashion that there’s no incontrovertible onscreen evidence that the couple actually has sex. (Maybe the audience is meant to simply imagine steamy offscreen clinches?)

Even so, despite writer-director Frias’ rather casual approach to providing transitions and motivations, he and his two leads are very effective when it comes to indicating the conflicting values and petulant jealousies that can gradually undermine a relationship. This is especially true during a scene in which long-simmering sentiments and resentments fuel a quarrel between Rezeta and Alex, and propel both characters into that battleground where words that should never be spoken are shouted out loud.

Here and elsewhere, Veliu evinces signs of instinctive acting talent almost as impressive as her beauty, while Mendoza adroitly conveys flashes of the sensitivity his character would normally prefer to camouflage with cynical wisecracks or impervious nonchalance.

Production values are adequate overall, though a few songs selected for the soundtrack are too on-the-nose obvious. When an early scene with Rezeta and Alex is underscored with someone warbling “If we are only friends, why do you kiss me like you do?” — well, at that point, viewers could be forgiven for shouting rude things at the screen.

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Slamdance Film Review: 'Rezeta'

Reviewed online, Houston, Jan. 19, 2014. (In Slamdance Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 84 MIN.

Production:

(Mexico) A Detalle Films production in association with After Life Films. Produced by Gerardo Gatica, Alejandro Saevich. Executive producers, Gerardo Gatica, Moises Cosio, Antonio Nacif. Co-producer, Juan Ignacio Sanchez.

Crew:

Directed, written by Fernando Frias. Camera (color), Emilio Valdes; editor, Yibran Asuad; music supervisor, Mariana Uribe; production designer, Fernando Lopez; costume designer, Masha Orlov; sound, Gabriel Reyna. 

With:

Rezeta Veliu, Roger Mendoza, Paulina Davila, Emiliano Becerril, Sebastian Cordova. (Spanish, English dialogue)

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