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“Arturo a los 30”: Director, co-screenwriter and lead actor Martin Shanley reveals a lot with the title of his second feature film. The name and approximate age of the hero are already known before darkness falls in the cinema and the opening credits roll. This fixation on numbers seems to be almost a trademark of the Argentine, and his debut was all about “Juana a los 12”. In an interview at the Finale, he tries to refute this theory. He promises that his next project will be different. Future music.
But back to the current film and Arturo. Shanley allows the main character to tell the story himself and write down his experiences. It becomes clear from the first scenes: the protagonist is a man who has not yet matured and has nothing to show. In his 30s, he tends to stumble through life and experiences “the worst day of his life.” (Original audio) This is presented with a lot of subtle humor, but also the courage to do all sorts of unspeakably embarrassing things.
All his experiences and encounters lead Arturo to this extraordinary celebration, the wedding of a friend. That’s why Martín Shanly also allows him to look back on past experiences. With a mixture of nostalgia and pain. Flashbacks are usually episodes that introduce people important to him. They all gather around him again on the worst day of his life. “Arturo a los 30” tells, both in the present and in the past, about aging, adulthood, vulnerability, family, friendship, relationships, love, identity and loss.
It’s the big topics that are discussed, like the very personal experiences of a not-quite-great man. The camera closes in on Arturo, watching him closely, occasionally showing his point of view. This personal perspective, and insight into his emotional world, is enhanced through voiceovers, even if not everything is told directly. Viewers become both witnesses and confidants, and the potential for identification is high. In other words: a lot of effort goes into making sure you can empathize with the main character.
Surrounded by people and sometimes completely alone. Emotional distance is indicated by images, sometimes addressed directly. Arturo is often seen alone or at least slightly detached, unfamiliar, and as close as the others to each other. Arturo is rarely brave/crazy enough to keep up with his friends. Often people around him cannot express their feelings well enough and cannot make him feel close to him. However, he is always surrounded by gloom. Or something more, the dark secret is revealed little by little. In these quiet and tragic moments, “Arturo a los 30” develops an emotional power that adds depth to the story. It’s not a simple story about a lost man in his 30s who can’t grow up. It’s more.
Without this sad tone, Arturo himself would be more like a clown, messing around willy-nilly, hardly missing a beat. Sometimes that’s the case in film anyway, because not all jokes are subtle. Situational comedy is shown just as much as the idiosyncrasies of the other characters, which are not always portrayed in an attractive way. The collection fills these lovable, quirky characters with life and harmony.
“Arturo a los 30” works well as a comedy overall, being entertaining, if not always wildly original. Partying and embarrassment under the influence of alcohol are an integral part of many (teen) comedies or romantic comedies with weddings: the guests talk, the guests enjoy strong drinks, the guests dance and embarrass themselves. Sometimes it’s not just the guests. Shanley takes advantage of the wild parties to some extent, which is quite funny, but not much else. The scenes are trite, interchangeable, and quickly forgotten. However, the film (thankfully) doesn’t constantly use this loud and harsh tone. It also makes room for more personal and authentic moments. The balance needed to stand out from the mass of upcoming movies with heroes long past their teenage years. Small gestures of affection and closeness stand out and are remembered.
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