July 11, 2011


Gustavo Taretto, the writer-director of this Argentinean romantic comedy, is an obvious fan of Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Much like the beginning of the Great Nebbish’s film things begin with a voice-over and shots of the city. The city, in fact, as a character. In this case, Buenos Aires. But these aren’t the type of shots the Buenos Aires tourism department would use. This opening montage shows the bizarre and the ugly in the architecture of Buenos Aires, while our narrator Martin lays all of society’s ills squarely at the feet of this poor architecture and city planning. This is balanced out by Mariana’s opening narration, expounding on the beauty of the architecture in Buenos Aires – she is an architect herself and loves the strange details and history behind the buildings that make up the city. The name of the film comes from the word for the ugly, featureless sides of buildings; the medianeras or "side-walls". 

This tells the tale of two people who are seemingly perfect for each other… if only they were to meet. It seems unlikely in a city of millions that they ever will, despite living in adjacent apartment blocks. And Taretto has great fun with this concept – there are meet-cutes that almost happen, there are parallel occurrences in the characters lives, there are little moments and hints at what they could be together. And despite the well-worn rom-com convention that the two lovers will come together, over-coming all obstacles in their way as they do so, there is a genuine question as to whether these two will. I couldn't help but feel that if this concept had been processed through the Hollywood system we would have been given a film overstuffed with forced "quirkiness" and coincidence. Instead, Taretto manages to balance a realism that keeps the film just this side of twee.

This realism is accentuated by the cinematography of Leandro Martinez, who manages to capture the personalities of various buildings while balancing this with the thriving life of modern Buenos Aires. The mood of the film changes subtly with each season, with Martines giving each season its own palette; an obvious move perhaps but one that may have been missed or overdone in a more Hollywood version of this tale.

The comedy is sharp and the characters well drawn - both Martin and Mariana are suffering from acute post break-up blues and they're both trying to deal with them in their own way. To add to that is the pressure of living in a city of millions while feeling connected to no-one. Medianeras is a film about love, and the search for same, in the modern city that has at its heart a love for that modern city. Martin and Mariana may criticise the city (Martin particulary) and the disconnection they feel, but it is criticism that carries affection with it. The film is not perfect - Taretto almost fumbles the end and there is a post-credits sequence that we could have defintely done without, but these are not enough to undo the affection that has been built up for these characters and this film.

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