A Portuguese attempt at a mosaic romantic comedy in the mould of Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day (never a good idea to start with) with a series of stories and characters criss-crossing in contemporary Lisbon, the debut feature of regular TV helmer Sérgio Graciano is a disappointingly shallow collection of flatly handled, predictably scripted shorts set end to end to make a feature. Expanded from his own award-winning short repurposed as the opening segment - possibly the most interesting and accomplished of the threaded stories - Assim Assim is a lazy, non-descript piece of work whose conversational tone and episodic structure make it more appropriate for the lesser narrative demands of the small screen.

     Worse, the scripting never rises beyond the lazy joke or the cliched setup and never makes sense as a full-length feature, the roundelay that connects all the characters seemingly more of a writer's contrivance rather than organic. For instance, there is no logic to the hospital-set episode other than to introduce three characters that will not reappear and point out their connections to two other characters that were bit players in previous episodes. As written, the characters are basically nothing more than archetypes with little to no personality and not enough screen time to make much of an impression, so it's up to the actors to do their best, but even so only a couple of them truly resonate. Rita Blanco (a disappointed wife abandoned by her husband), Margarida Carpinteiro (a lonely old lady who uses the hospital visit to find some human contact) and Nuno Lopes (a volatile lover still pining for his previous girlfriend) are the most successful. Most others, including such estimable performers as Ana Brandão, Dinarte Branco or Miguel Guilherme, fall prey to the broadly sketched nature of the humour at work here, in some occasions borderline awkward.

     While it's always laudable to see a young director moving forward with a debut feature with a minimal, self-raised budget, and wanting to make a film that will resonate with a wider audience, it's really a shame that the end result is more of a slapped-together TV sitcom than an actual feature.

Albano Jerónimo, Ana Brandão, Cleia Almeida, Dinarte Branco, Eva Barros, Gonçalo Waddington, Inês Rosado, Isabel Abreu, Ivo Canelas, Joana Santos, João Arrais, Joaquim Horta, Margarida Carpinteiro, Miguel Guilherme, Nuno Lopes, Pedro Lacerda, Rita Blanco, Sabri Lucas, Sílvia Filipe, Tomás Alves.
     Director, Sérgio Graciano; screenplay, Pedro Lopes; cinematography, Miguel Manso (colour); music, André Joaquim; art director, Inês Pedro; costumes, Dora Luís; editor, Miguel Oliveira; producer, Ana Sofia Morais (Filarmónica Filmes), Portugal, 2012, 98 minutes.
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Columbia Tristar Warner screening room (Lisbon), April 4th 2012.


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