Rosa, a widow of many years, lives in a small apartment in Buenos Aires. The building is not exactly a luxury one, but it serves her in her lonely existence. Rosa loves walking to different neighborhood shops in which she buys her meager provisions. She is appalled about the changes she has seen in her native city. She complains about the Chinese invasion; it appears most of the stores where she shops are owned by them. Rosa finds them filthy, but has no other choices because evidently there are none.
Marcelo lives opposite Rosa's apartment on the other side of the landing. He is a student who has come to the capital to study. His ambition is to become a doctor, but having to make a living, in order to live, things get complicated for the long hours he must spend doing the jobs. As the story begins, he is being fired from his job at a telephone calling center. He has another job distributing fliers to passersby. One day, while getting off the metro, he passes an attractive young woman. He stares at her, she smiles at him. As it turns out, she is also a student, attending the same university.
One day Rosa and Marcelo coincide in a ride going down on the elevator. She notices he has a couple of bags and asks him the reason why. He explains he has decided to pack all in, going home to his small provincial town. Rosa, immediately, sees the possibility of a companion that will be agreeable to share his company in exchange for food and shelter in her apartment. The arrangement is a strange one. With Marcelo, Rosa feels talkative, a departure from the all news program on her old television set.
These two different characters meet at a crucial point in their lives. Rosa is getting on in years. Her husband died young and she has had to fend for herself. Marcelo is not a good student. In fact, we watch him in class drawing figures on his notebook. Since he has to work to attend the university he gets a job in a copying center. One day the strange young woman he met in the metro comes to have some work done. Marcelo asks if he could see her. Before he goes to meet her, he stops at a kiosk selling flowers. He notices Rosa staring into space across the street. He asks the vendor what to get for his date, questioning the man if he knew Rosa, pointing to her in the distance. The negative answer gives Marcelo a clear picture as to her isolation and loneliness. After a date gone wrong, he decides to pack it in. He has nothing left in Buenos Aires to keep him there.
A beautiful character study by Pablo Jose Meza, "La Vieja De Atras" offers a complex look at life in the big city. There are millions of people all over the world going through the same situation as Rosa, a woman whose life has not been a happy one. Now old, with only the canary she lovingly tends to, she has nothing to look forward to, except death. Rosa and Marcelo are basically the same types of people, with the only exception that he is younger and could try another approach to end his dreary life in a hostile environment. Marcelo has changed his serene small town for the impersonal atmosphere where he just does not fit. The film is slow in the tradition of European and South American film making. Mr. Meza camera places his subjects either on the extreme right, or left of the screen. The only living thing is the bird.
Adriana Aizemberg, an excellent Argentine character actress does wonders with her Rosa. Her mannerisms capture the essence of Rosa. Add to that her intelligent approach to this lonely person as Ms. Aizemberg keeps the viewer riveted to her every move. She is a sad woman who appears to be on her way to be losing it at any given moment. One's heart goes out to her because one knows how she will probably end up. The Marcelo of Martin Piroyansky is as complex as Ms. Aizemberg. On the positive side, they compliment one another well. This young actor uses a blank expression to show his boredom as he feels defeated by something superior to him.
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