When: Thursday, 10 May - Friday, 22 June
Where: Bridgeway cinema, 122 Queen Street, Northcote
How much: $8 - $15
A young Chinese man arrives in Argentina, destitute, penniless and without a word of Spanish and finds a reluctant friend in a grumpy middle-aged hermit. Frustration, cultural ignorance and plenty of hilarity ensues in this endearing character-driven tale.
Roberto, played by the superb Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin, is an eccentric who lives his life according to a very strict routine. His hobby is collecting unusual articles from newspapers that validate his sense of life's absurdity. He doesn't have much time for people, making it hard for him to show anything but utter contempt for the few customers who frequent the small family hardware store he owns. Despite his obvious feelings to the contrary, he's barely even civil to Mari (Muriel Santa Ana), a former fling from the countryside who returns to Buenos Aires to win him over.
Roberto's sense of order is thrown into disarray however, when Chinese immigrant Jun (Huang Sheng Huang) is kicked out of a moving taxi just in front of where Roberto is one day having a picnic. Jun latches on to Roberto, speaking non-stop in Chinese. Roberto takes pity on him and against his better judgement, ends up taking him in on a temporary basis. Much of the rest of the film describes Roberto's increasingly desperate attempts to rid himself of his new friend.
This film has already proven extremely popular with critics and audiences alike. It won Best Film and the Audience Award at the Rome International Film Festival 2012 and has grossed more than $4.4 million in Argentina. In its recent European debut in Spain, it broke records for a Latin American release.
While I imagine the reason why Chinese subtitles weren'tt used was to try to make the language barrier appear more authentic, I'm not sure this was a good idea. It merely reinforces Chinese stereotypes and means we only get to know Huang's character Jun up to a point. Having said that though, both he and Darin play the main characters so delightfully that it's impossible not to get swept along in this feel good comedy.