From Afar

 

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A gay story from Venezuela that takes an unexpected turn.

 
From Afar

 

This is a notable first feature from Lorenzo Vigas who, born in 1967, has previously concentrated chiefly on documentary work. Together with Guillermo Arriaga he has devised the story himself and has come up with a tale that centres on two men living very different lives in contemporary Caracas. The middle-aged Armando (Alfredo Castro) is a loner who works in a dental laboratory, while Elder (Luis Silva) is a youth living on the streets. They come into contact when, not for the first time, Armando goes looking for a youngster to pick up and bring home and Elder is ready to oblige for the cash offered. In the event there is no physical contact in this sexual encounter (Armando seeks only to masturbate himself as he looks at a naked male body in the same room), but Elder takes advantage in his own way by hitting Armando and stealing his wallet. Nevertheless, these two meet again and gradually an unexpected bond  forms between them.

 

Early on we see Elder with his girlfriend while Armando’s solitary life-style and his willingness to be victimised by Elder suggest a gay man driven by his desires but quite possibly despising himself for them. From Afar, which won the Golden Lion award at Venice last year, is to some extent a minimalistic work which, gaining from two fine central performances, encourages the viewer to speculate about these characters, their history and their motivations. Slow moving but mesmerising and aided by the ’Scope  and colour photography of the experienced Sergio Armstrong and by Vigas’s decision not to have the backing of a musical score, From Afar convincingly allows us to realise that there is a void, a loneliness and an absence of love that for all the contrasts between them these two men share.

 

Although this style of filmmaking is anathema to some, those who can respond to it will recognise the quality of From Afar even if Vigas arguably holds back a little too much when it comes to information about subsidiary characters. But after the halfway mark we are in for a shock: we may think that we know where the film is going (I certainly did) only to find that it leads off in a different direction entirely. That would scarcely matter if it worked on its own terms, but (no spoilers so no details) the latter stages of the film involve at least three surprises that struck me as narrative twists lacking in conviction. The shock ending is handled very deftly by Vigas confirming the skills as director that he has displayed throughout, but what he offers as writer makes me question what drew him to this plot in the first place.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Alfredo Castro, Luis Silva, Jericó Montilla, Catherina Cardozo, Jorge Luis Bosque, Greymer Acosta.

 

Dir Lorenzo Vigas, Pro Guillermo Arriaga, Rodolfo Cova, Michel Franco and Lorenzo Vigas, Screenplay (from a story by Guillermo Arriaga and himself) Lorenzo Vigas, Ph Sergio Armstrong, Art Dir Matías Tikas, Ed Isabela Monteiro de Castro, Costumes Marisela Marin.

 

Factor RH Producciones/Malandro Films/Lucia Films etc.-ICA Cinema.
93 mins. Venezuela/Mexico/France. 2015. Rel: 1 July 2016. Cert. 15.