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September 2, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Longing for other bodies, other lives

By Pablo Suarez

Celeste Cid and Leo Sbaraglia play a married couple in desperate need of fresh air

Points: 8

Lucía (Celeste Cid) and Manuel (Leonardo Sbaraglia) have been married for quite a few years and have a seven-year-old son, Santi (Máximo Silva), whom they love. As husband and wife, they still care for each other, yet the truth is they are no longer in love. At best, they’re going through a crisis they would rather not talk about. It even seems they do want to break up, but without acknowledging it. In any case, they long for other bodies, other feelings, and other lives. They think they need a breath of fresh air. If they are no longer having a good time, why stay together that much?

As they undergo their crisis, Lucía and Manuel try to make a new home for themselves in a residential area outside the hectic Buenos Aires.

In the meantime, they move in with their parents, and it’s easy to see they feel they are teenagers once again. Too bad he’s in his early forties, and she is in her late thirties. Not that they care, anyway. You are as young as you feel, right?

These are some one of the main questions posed by Argentine filmmaker Anahí Berneri in her new film Aire libre. But they should be understood as critiques, not as desirable manners to think your way out of a sentimental crisis.

Berneri casts an acute, never condescending gaze on how many couples implicitly agree on how not to deal with their problems, and so go for temporary love affairs with others. Or how they decide to terminate their relationship because of fear of confronting one another. Many times, they would rather deceive themselves with the false promise of sharing a bright new sky with the next person to come. As if love was that easy.

But Berneri does not judge her characters even for a second. She clearly exposes their erratic behavior, their implicit and explicit aggressions, the ways they find to establish some distance, how their bodies don’t make love to one another anymore, what they do with their frustrations, and how unwilling they are to make some kind of commitment or alliance that would at least give them a chance to recover their relationship. Despite their complaints, it looks like they’re comfortably numb.

Aire libre draws a detailed, very telling state of things and asks viewers to witness it all — not a pretty sight. Following a very accomplished naturalistic vein, situations, episodes and occurrences take place in a restrained fashion. Granted, there are just a few outbursts of violence here and there, but for the most part waters still run deep. Don’t expect major dramatic turning points for there are almost none. It’s not about grandiloquence or big gestures. It’s just that tedium and carelessness have been taking their toll for too long. In the name of love, somebody should have been paying attention.

Production notes

Aire libre (Argentina, 2014). Directed by Anahí Berneri. Written by Anahí Berneri and Javier Van De Couter. With Leonardo Sbaraglia, Celeste Cid, Máximo Silva, Fabiana Cantilo, Marilú Marini, Erica Rivas. Produced by Natacha Cervi y Hernán Musaluppi. Cinematography by Hugo Colace. Sound design: Catriel Vildosola. Editing: Eliane Katz. Running time: 104 minutes.

 

@pablsuarez

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