Minimalist road trip that reaps great reward. One for the character fans.
It must be a right old pain in the arse when your economy takes the kind of tumble that results in a regression to the stone age. Ask the Argentinians. Imagine trying to do something that needs money, like making a film. Surprising then that Historias Minimas should emerge onto the international scene at all, even more so that it should be quite such a gem. Director Carlos Sorin has cooked up something of a blinder in this unassuming little tale that sets out to do nothing other than highlight a trio of amiable characters in their relatively mundane exploits. Utilising the increasingly tired mechanism of having three parallel stories intertwining at various points throughout the narrative, Historias... sidesteps all other conventions in favour of simply allowing the characters to drive the action.
The three main Patagonian protagonists each have their own reason for reaching the town of San Julian. Roberto (Javier Lombardo) is a middle-age salesman besotted with a young client. Eager to find love he is determined to deliver a custom made cake for her son's birthday. Don Justo Benedictis (Antonio Benedictti) is the elderly father of a general store owner who is tipped that his missing dog Badface has been spotted in San Julian. Abandoning his family in the night he sets off on foot along the highway to reclaim his old friend. Finally, Maria Flores (Javiera Bravo) is a poor young mother who earns the opportunity to win an expensive food processor on a tragically cheesy game show. With their wildly varying motives the three embark on their 200 mile journey, each story overlapping with the others at various intervals.
Some light-hearted comic intermissions aside, that's really all there is to this. Were it not for the compelling performances from the uniformly excellent cast, Historias Minimas might have been something of an insomnia remedy. Flying in the face of all odds, however, it somehow succeeds in being one of the most quietly uplifting cinematic events since Amelie. Refreshingly, pretty much nothing bad happens to anyone, the odd misunderstanding aside. Roberto gets his date, Don Justo recovers his mutt and Maria gets the food processor. And that's it. Do any of them learn anything? Not that I noticed. Do any of them change as people because of their journey? Other than being a little happier, no. Should they have to? Of course not.
In a world of exploding cars and heavy-handed emotional and spiritual metaphors, Historias... defiantly blows a raspberry at your literary whore of an English teacher and asks you to do nothing more than feel empathy for it's heroes of the mundane. In keeping with the minimalist ethos, the understated performances are underscored by Sorin's equally laconic direction. The Patagonian vistas do all the talking when the actors are off screen, the camera man for once being allowed to leave his equipment static and survey the beauty with his own eyes just like the rest of us. No sweeping pans or complex tracking shots; just consummately structured nature appreciation and a knack for sympathetic framing of our protagonists.
That there is little else I can say should not be interpreted as a condemnation. Rather that something so intriguing and involving can grow from something so essentially simple should be construed as an ode to the vision of the filmmakers and the natural beauty of the human condition. I like my excitement as much as the next man, but if everything so still and tranquil was as involving as this I'd be happy to forego bullet time any old day of the week.
Inexplicably satisfying, involving and rewarding, Historias Minimas is a testimony to the genius of quiet. No doubt the very notion will repel a great many cinema-goers, but if like this reviewer you find the greatest special effect to be the convincing and touching portrayal of an ordinary individual, you're going to take away a great deal more than the sum of this movie's parts. It will be criminally overlooked. Do yourself a favour and don't be so blind.
From my island of killer frogs I award this movie 4 out of 5 Disko Miniaturisation Units.
Don Justo Benedictis (Antonio Benedictti)
Maria Flores (Javiera Bravo)