RINCÓN DE DARWIN (Darwin's Corner)

Its origins in Uruguay, a Latin American country not much known for its film production, are probably the initial selling point for Diego Fernández Pujol's debut feature after a series of shorts and music videos. Sadly, though, there's precious little else to distinguish Rincón de Darwin's deadpan slow-burn road movie from many other low-budget debut features, regardless of its origin being in small or big countries. Its artlessly gauche, long-take awkwardness fits perfectly with its theme - folk in stasis, caught in situations beyond their control, unsure where to go next or how to deal with them - but is also unable to give it a boost that would make a difference.

     At heart, Rincón de Darwin follows the traditional "life-changing road trip" concept: after being unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, web developer Gastón (Jorge Temponi) agrees to drive to a remote corner of Uruguay to assess a family property that should go on sale. Alongside him in the eventful long drive from Montevideo to Rincón de Darwin in a battered old Ford F-150 are the family's square, conservative notary public Américo (Carlos Frasca), and the driver, dogsbody Beto (Jorge Esmoris), who is essentially there because of a mix-up. The small-A adventures the trio goes through are punctuated by excerpts from Charles Darwin's diaries from his passage through Uruguay, relevant to the men's issues with wives and families.

     But Mr. Fernández Pujol, also scripting, gives the "transformative" road movie precious little transformation. For the three men, the long journey is a reunion with who they really are and let themselves get away from, but do they really learn anything they (or us) didn't know, does the film give its viewer any insight on them? The long-take set-ups and Arauco Hernández Holz's cinematography are designed to make us focus all our attention on the solid performances from the three actors and on the scripting; but everything in Rincón de Darwin is so signposted, so predictable - even its dry, double-take wit - that you end up asking what exactly sets this amiable but flimsy debut apart from the pack. The answer, sadly, is its nationality.

Cast: Jorge Esmoris, Carlos Frasca, Jorge Temponi
Director and screenwriter: Diego Fernández Pujol
Cinematography: Arauco Hernández Holz  (colour)
Music: Franny Glass
Designer and costumes: Gonzalo Delgado Galiana
Editor: Fernando Epstein
Producers: Mr. Fernández Pujol, Gabriel Richieri, Micaela Solé, Luís Urbano, Sandro Aguilar (Transparente Films in co-production with O Som e a Fúria)
Uruguay/Portugal, 2013, 79 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Cinema City Alvalade 3 (Lisbon), February 26th 2014


Nicolas Reid said…
What an awful horrible hurtful condemning thing to say as your conclusion to your otherwise useful review.
I have no idea what "nationality" you have but I certainly know that your nationality is not the cause of such gratuit insult. You're on your own mate.
Jorge Mourinha said…
I fail to see how noting that an ordinary, middling film comes from a country whose cinema is not really known abroad, and how that origin is the only defining trait that sets it apart from so many middling films from all over the world, can be construed as in insult.

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