Lost Embrace

(El Abrazo Partido)

Argentina's submission for Best Foreign Film at the 2004 Academy Awards is Lost Embrace, a slow-moving comedic drama that flounders for most of its running time. It pales in comparison to Son of the Bride, Argentina's entry a few years ago. On the whole, it's a pretty odd choice for consideration, given that it really does not have much going for it. Valentin, an annoyingly cute film released earlier this year, would probably have a better chance at making the cut. As it stands, Lost Embrace is an overly talky film where little happens except for Ariel Marakoff (Daniel Hendler, The Bottom of the Sea, NS/NC) continually wondering about his place in the world.

Ariel works with his mother Sonia (Adriana Aizenberg, Crane World, Hacer Agua) in their family lingerie store located in a small mall full of colorful locals. Business is not great, but Ariel does have a relationship-on-the-side with Rita (Silvina Bosco, Click, Cinco Amigas), who works at a cyber cafe. Writer/director Daniel Burman (Every Stewardess Goes to Heaven, Waiting for the Messiah) and co-writer Marcelo Birmajer (Sol de Noche, Un Cuento de Navidad) spend the first few minutes identifying every possible person Ariel may come in contact with at the mall, then proceed to ignore most of them for the duration of the film.

Ariel's father left when he was a boy to fight in Israel. He has yet to return. Ariel wants to go to Europe on a Polish passport (he is of Polish descent) to start a new life, not to meet his father. It's obvious that after all these years, his father's abandonment still affects him. It seems that many of the characters are coming to some sort of crossroads in their lives, and somehow, everybody will need to deal with their issues as Lost Embrace winds down. There's really nothing else that happens in the film. This is not a film about plot, it is one about characterization and dialogue.

In this sense, Burman and Birmajer could still use some work. Yes, all of the characters are different, but the script has their profession, religion, and ethnicity define them, not their words and hopes. Most of the minor characters fade into the background given this and their minimal screen time. Hendler fares better, only because he is in nearly every scene. He performs well, but the dialogue causes him to sound less thoughtful and more whiny. Burman wants the ending to be emotional, but it's hard to care about many of these characters in the first place.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 39 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some language, probably an R.

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