Carmen Uranga is a middle-aged Argentine woman who after living many years in Madrid returns to Buenos Aires to assist her sick father (Héctor Alterio). His sister Ana is a lawyer in charge... See full summary »
Gael García Bernal,
Where García Bernal was still wet behind the ears when first working with some of Mexico's top directorial talent; here, he has created a strong and involving piece himself.
In Déficit, predominant Mexican actor Gael García Bernal directs a relatively bold; rather disturbing and ultimately despairing look at youth. Here is a film set in its own closed off world of hedonism, drug use and burning antagonism ready to explode; a world we are gradually invited to believe was brought about illegitimately by the adult owners whom are away; a world we begin outside of but are eerily brought into through the main gates whilst systematically welcomed by a drawing of a huge phallus. The Eden that has been created here is being misused; the apples on the trees are ripening and various characters are ominously eyeing up the juiciness of the supposed fruit. Where once the man was at the forefront of whatever Mexican New Wave you wish to state arose at the beginning of the 2000s, the star of such films as Love's a Bitch and And Your Mother Too, is now at the forefront of his own piece as a director and lead actor. If Déficit is the result of said New Wave, a creation of a text by those either working on or inspired by the films of said period, then it can only really be a good thing.
It is indeed García Bernal's character Cristobal around whom we predominantly follow, a young man; a popular man and into all those things a young, popular man shouldn't be. He is hosting a lavish get together with his sister; her friends and his at the large house his parents own in a secluded part of Mexico up in the hills, naturally, while they're both away. On the back-burner is an impeding acceptance into a top university; the legal problems his parents are facing as they remain away from the property, communication of which is punctuated by nervous phone calls from the mother, and Cristobal's lost girlfriend whom is on her way but keeps ringing for directions at certain times. The scene is set, and very early on, after most of the friends have arrived and a degree of hostility with his sister is established, one of the guests tries to pick up a vase which belongs to the household to which Cristobal will beg the offender not to interfere. That sense of something very delicate, which will take a long time to mend, being casually smashed to pieces by way of an accident or otherwise becomes prominent; that sense of impending doom and consequent clean up operation at which Cristobal will most probably have to take responsibility, becomes prominent. The characters are on a constant knife edge in what they do and how they act; surely it's just a matter of time before tempers fray and something regretful happens.
The film makes a point to make a chief study out of a character named Adnan, a live in gardener-come-worker for Cristobal's household. Adnan is a part of a seemingly normalised, even perfect, family unit in that he is with his mother; father and little sister. Unlike those they work for, the parents of this unit work with morals and operate within the fields of good, clean and honest hard work and whom keep a stern eye on their young; something in binary opposition to Cristobal's whom are away fighting legal issues for apparent corruption and whose actions of such will lead to everything that transpires to their own young during the night of the get-together. In Adnan, the spying of a young Argentinian girl named Dolores (Cipriota) who has been invited to the party kicks off a more direct, more physical conflict with Cristobal when it transpires he has an eye for her as well; Cristobal's own dispiriting tactics seeing him seemingly providing his girlfriend Mafer with false directions so as to be able to buy time and get closer to Dolores. The proximity of these people, their actions and people like Dolores is having a dangerous, negative affect on those seemingly 'uncorrupt' in and around the area.
The manner in which Cristobal and Adnan share a gaze for Dolores links these two people of wildly differing 'sorts' in ways that was previously a far cry from happening, Adnan's arc evolving, negatively, as the attraction to Dolores and apparent allurement towards the sorts of activity playing out on the grounds grows, eventually leading to what happens during the film's climax. The film avoids being barely anything more than a mere author's fantasy, painting a crass and alienating image of both genders on screen whilst systematically demonising the actions of either gender gradually and methodically rather provide us with a false epiphany tacked on at the end. This is not an hour and a half or so of gratuity and stupefying attitudes towards the opposite sex before a little five minute 'bit' at the end telling us that "all of the above is really bad, and ought not be done."
Where, usually American based and orientated, films with similar traits paint sympathetic portraits of central males chasing women, whom the text usually renders no more than a prize, despite them being pig-headed, moronic and ultimately female hating; Déficit alienates us from most of the male characters and their actions, instead using the character of Adnan for the aforementioned purposes. The women are granted an equally negative representation and are far from the passive, flat footed, prize-angelic archetypes the film could have rendered them with García Bernal going some way to have us dislike everybody rather than take sides in a plight of either misogyinic or misandric sorts. Ultimately and most importantly, there is a tinge of regret when certain characters realise they should've spent what was essentially a 'last supper' scenario with their friends a little more constructively, given the events that transpire which have future off screen ramifications, than what they did. Déficit is a nicely constructed but quite terrifying dramatisation of this; one García Bernal pulls off.
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