‘Nobody Knows I’m Here’
Starring: Jorge Garcia, Millaray Lobos, Luis Gnecco, Alejandro Goic and Gastón Pauls
Rating: TV-MA, for mild dramatic intensity
By Derrick Bang
Enterprise film critic
Chilean director/co-scripter Gaspar Antillo’s impressive first feature — debuting on Netflix — is a meditative, slowly simmering character study anchored by star Jorge Garcia’s heartbreaking lead performance.
Don’t be misled by the first act’s apparent aimlessness; Antillo and co-writers Josefina Fernández and Enrique Videla build their quietly poetic saga to a deeply poignant conclusion.
It’s a rare big-screen starring role for Garcia, best known for his high-profile work in television’s “Lost” and the revived “Hawaii Five-O.” He pours heart and soul into this performance, which owes as much to body language and thoughtful pauses as to his character’s scant dialog.
Memo Garrido (Garcia) and his Uncle Braulio (Luis Gnecco) lead a reclusive existence on an island reachable only by boat in Southern Chile’s Lake Llanquihue. They chop wood and process sheepskin, securing just enough work to enable their Spartan lifestyle. Memo is stoic and mostly silent, participating reluctantly — and with as few words as possible — in his amiable uncle’s efforts at conversation.
But Braulio neither minds nor pushes the point; he respects Memo’s nature, while looking out for his withdrawn nephew.
When not working, Memo makes and dons elaborate costumes, putting on silent fashion shows while bathed in the glow of a red light that exists only in his imagination. (A different red light plays a key role in the story’s conclusion.) He also likes to visit neighboring 凯发体育官方sporthomes when the occupants are away: not to steal or even touch anything, but solely to soak in the atmosphere of … finer living (?).
The reflexive assumption is that he’s a spectrum child, but a conversational aside denies that possibility; the remaining conclusion, then, is that he’s Damaged Goods. Something happened in his past: something that has left him emotionally wounded, bitter and resolutely antisocial.
The dynamic shifts when their regular delivery of bundled sheepskins is taken over by Marta (Millaray Lobos), a chatty, cheerful young woman who — physically — is very much the diminutive Laurel to Memo’s massive, shambling Hardy. She’s inquisitive, but not unpleasantly so: also sensitive enough to tread carefully, while trying to understand and learn more about this painfully shy man.
We learn the truth via flashback; I’ll not reveal it here, except to note that it involves a cruel betrayal by Memo’s father, Jacinto (Alejandro Goic), who — all these years later — remains an unwelcome presence in his son’s life.
The dynamic shifts again; Memo is left on his own for a while. Marta visits more often, in part because she already cares enough for him to ensure that he not be left alone too much.
And then, one day — clearly wanting to reach out, having decided he trusts her enough — Memo impulsively reveals his secret. This prompts the story’s rapidly evolving third act.
The moral, of course, is that human nature can be much uglier than Memo’s forlorn opinion of his appearance.
Antillo’s approach throughout is meditative enough to raise questions about whether some of what we see takes place only in Memo’s mind. There’s also a sense of magic realism in some of cinematographer Sergio Armstrong’s lush and inviting tableaus of the massive lake, the forested land around Memo and Braulio’s farm, and the make-believe “spotlight” that illuminates Memo’s dress-up sequences.
Garcia, seeming much larger than his already plus-size self, makes Memo the ultimate tragic figure; he moves in a slow, awkward shamble, as if carrying a huge unseen weight on his shoulders. His gaze is wary, brooding and indescribably sad; he has long wanted … something … and has given up any hope of ever getting it. His longings are imprisoned by his own sense of futility.
Alternatively, he can become as dangerous as a mother bear if circumstances demand; at such times, his imposing, threatening anger intimidates without a word.
Marta orchestrates a shift in Memo’s mood; she kindles his desire to open, to share, if only by degrees. We yearn to see Garcia smile; I’m not sure he ever does fully, but he gets close enough to count.
Lobos’ Marta radiates warmth and nurturing kindness. We never get her backstory, but there’s a sense that she’s lonely: perhaps looking to become part of something she’ll find meaningful.
Gastón Pauls makes quite an impression during his brief third-act appearance, as a thoroughly loathsome and self-centered individual.
The film closes with an overhead shot by Armstrong, holding on two characters; Antillo achieves maximum dramatic impact by having one merely move a foot. If you didn’t already have a lump in your throat, after the sequence that preceded this final tableau, you surely will when the screen darkens for the credits.
— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at http://derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.hkxms.cn.ShareTweet