(Argentina) A La Expresion del Deseo production. (International sales: La Expresion del Deseo, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Israel Adrian Caetano. Co-producer, Juan Pablo Gugliotta. Directed, written by Israel Adrian Caetano.
With: Milagros Caetano, Natalia Oreiro, Lautaro Delgado, Monica Ayos.
Warm-hearted but irritatingly mannered, the intimate Argentine drama "Francia" explores the confusing world of modern families through the eyes of a young girl. Latest feature by offbeat helmer Israel Adrian Caetano ("Buenos Aires, 1977") deploys an assortment of cinematic bric-a-brac -- from split-screen views and voiceover narration to whole poems furled down the edge of the frame -- that nevertheless fails to distract from the fact that the screenplay lacks focus. Niche release looks like the pic's best bet.
About 10 years old, Mariana (Milagros Caetano, the helmer's daughter) has lived with her mother, Cristina (Natalia Oreiro), ever since her parents split up when she was a baby. Her dad, Carlos (Lautaro Delgado), who runs a failing machine shop, is involved in Mariana's life, but neither parent quite knows how to deal with Mariana's aggressive outbursts at school, insistence on listening to her CD player constantly or demands that they call her Gloria. When Carlos splits from his g.f., he moves into a spare room at Cristina's, reuniting the family in an unconventional but eminently modern way. Sensitive, underplayed thesping and evocative atmosphere rep strong points, but tonal shifts prove ultimately confusing.
Camera (color/B&W), Julian Apeztequia; editor, H. Omar Ester; music, Ivan Wyzsogrod; production designer, Guillermo Quintana; art directors, Pablo Tanno, Angel Suparregui; costume designer, Caroline Langer. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Days), Sept. 6, 2009. Running time: 78 MIN.