Dir: Laura Citarella | Cast: Laura Paredes, Ezequiel Pierri, Rafael Spregelburd, Elisa Carricajo, Veronica Llinas, Juliana Muras, Argentina, Drama | 2 x 120′
Taking its name from a sparsely populated town in a region to the West of Buenos Aires Laura Citarella’s compelling feature debut often feels like an Argentine version of Twin Peaks, unfolding in two parts, each two hours long.
The mystery is there and the smalltime isolation – in this remote landlocked province larger than Austria – is palpable, and time-wise it feels like a throw-back to the 1950s although the story unfolds in the present day. Trenque Lauquen is all about the road less travelled, and, like the layers of an onion or a Russian doll, that sense of enigma edges the narrative forward; although some may find the pace slower than watching paint dry. Subtle but powerhouse performances save the day, Laura, Ezekiel and Raphael feel like real people we might even have met; we certainly get to know them inside out in this small-town backwater. A particular standout is Cecilia Rainero as Normita, but Laura Paredes is also notable in the lead.
The film opens as two men are discussing a woman. Ezequiel (Pierri) is her colleague, Raphael (Spregelburd) her boyfriend. Laura (Paredes, who also co-wrote the script) is a radio presenter and botanist. She has vanished, apparently without trace, after discovering a cache of hidden love letters.
The men want to find Laura for their own different reasons, and this provides them with their own search for the truth. Although Raphael calls himself her boyfriend, as the story unfolds Ezequiel will get far closer to Laura when she reappears. She is on an entirely different journey her male friends. And as they all embark of this existential odyssey, a sense of betrayal of his friend Raphael haunts Ezeguiel’s every expression. Meanwhile the meandering story takes us deeper and deeper into the mystery that haunts and obsesses Laura: the covert love story between a gaucho and an educated woman in an exploration probing the complexity of the female condition.
Divided into a series of chapters this soulful South American drama provides an immersive often surreal tale if we surrender to its lyrical languor in the sultry landscapes of the Argentine Pampas. @MeredithTaylor
PARTS I and 2 UK CINEMAS and on CURZON HOME from 8 DECEMBER 2023