Thursday, October 24, 2013

La Paz [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R)   Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing* listing

La Paz [2013] [IMDb] [CN]* (written and directed by Santiago Loza [IMDb] [CN]*) is a gentle, well acted, "personalist" film from Argentina about a troubled young man named Liso (played by Lisandro Rodríguez [IMDb] [CN]*) struggling with borderline mental illness.  The film played recently at the 49th Chicago International Film Festival.   (North) American viewers would probably find it interesting to compare the film's treatment of the subject matter to recent North American films like Take Shelter [2011], Perks of Being a Wall Flower [2012] and even Silver Linings Playbook [2012] that cover similar ground.

The current film begins with Liso, presumably in his early 20s (still of college age) being released from the hospital after an unspecified length of stay to his upper-middle class parents (played by Andrea Strenitz [IMDb] [CN]* and Ricardo Felix [IMDb] [CN]* respectively).   Liso's father is some sort of a factory manager, his mother manages their "appropriate to their class" home (presumably somewhere in an upper class neighborhood of  Buenos Aires) with a rather large garden and swimming pool.   They also have a Bolivian maid named Sonia (played by Fidelia Batallanos Michel [IMDb] [CN]*).    Liso also has a kindly grandmother (played by Beatriz Bernabé [IMDb] [CN]*) who lives in a flat in a more modest neighborhood on her own.  All in all, the family would not be out-of-place in Santa Monica or the Brentwood neighborhood of West L.A.

Liso's family is not evil, indeed, they're sympathetic.  But also it's clear that Liso's bout with schizophrenia has proven to be something beyond their comprehension or preparedness.  

With Lino on anti-schizophrenic medication, much of the movie is characteristically "flat."  After a while, Lino's father in particular just doesn't get it.  "Do you want to work?  Do you want to go back to school?  You used to have friends, you used to have novias (girlfriends).  Now you have nothing, do nothing.  It's not good to have no ambition, no plans..." and in an attempt to "animarlo" (animate him) he gives him some money to "divertirse" (have some fun).  Then he gives him a few more bills "in case she's expensive" ;-).  Yes, it's crude, yes it's rather stereotypical, but given Lino's extended pyschological "flatness" it's also sincere ;-).  So Lino goes and finds a prostitute (who's actually "putting herself through law school" that way ;-).  She assures him that he's (physically) fine.  But she's also confused about what's wrong with him, agreeing essentially with his dad that "it's not good to have no ambition..."  And of course Lino himself doesn't know what to do with his life.

The film's solution to Lino's problem finds itself in person of Sonia, the family's maid.  After many years of working for Lino's family, she decides that she needs to go home.  "But why would you want to go back to Bolivia?" asks Lino's incredulous mother.  "I miss it."  "What could you possibly miss?"  Getting someone angry at this point, Sonia responds, "Everything."

So eventually, she packs herself up and decides to return to the mountains of La Paz (Bolivia's capital).  And Lino, stuck _at sea level_ with no plans or hopes in Buenos Aires eventually decides to go with her and ... (mild spoiler alert, but it is the title of the film ...) ... there he finds "la paz" (peace).

It's a nice film about an upper middle class family in crisis and the need to perhaps let go of some things ... to find peace.

* Decent enough (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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