Just caught an engaging little film called la perrera, which is, I think, the first film I’ve ever seen from Uruguay, although it was produced with Argentine money. According to IMDB this is Manola Nieto’s first feature film as director and it’s a promising one with very little to quibble about.

The synopsis in the KVIFF Program describes it as a “portrait of a place where nothing ever happens” but I disagree. Things happen: a house gets built, partially; an affair begins, and ends, sort of; the relationship between a father and son changes irrevocably, or maybe not; a queeny gay guy gets gang-raped, or else he manages to escape or the drunken straight guys change their minds; David, the main character, leaves his father’s house to go back to school and takes his entrance exams, and we never know if he passes them; he has a urethral tract infection and never goes to the doctor. Events and situations just sort of hang there, never resolving; daily life intervenes, everyone gets high, until another event happens and then the characters in this film move around a little, change their minds, sometimes their homes, sometimes their lovers. They have goals although they’re kind of fuzzy. They make some decisions but don’t follow through them completely.

This milieu is executed with an even-handed directorial style. Nieto never goes overboard to make a point, basically letting actors behave naturally. Most situations also bear a comic touch which never belittles the characters or turns their lives into tragedy.

The final shot made me smile. David is back in Montevideo, hoping to go back to school. He has no money and has been looking for his friends whom he used to live with a year ago. He ends up outside the building where his sometime-girlfriend lives but falls asleep waiting for her, head propped up on one arm. She walks up, sees him but doesn’t stop, just goes in and gets in the elevator. Cut to a medium shot of David, sleepy, sitting in a public place somewhere in a row of prefab chairs. What looks like a homeless person sits in front of him; a mom with children and a big set of bags waits in the background. Could be a train or bus station anywhere in the world. Although he’s on the streets, basically, David’s not exactly lost, he’s got somewhat of a plan. Don’t pity him: he’s bemused but he’s also a little bit all right.