Since seeing Cyrano De Bergerac in my early to mid-teens, I have felt a gravitation toward foreign films. A lot of people cannot stand to watch subtitled films, but I have no such qualms; I’ve watched French, Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish films. Each one having a style all its own. Occasionally, I peruse the foreign film options on Netflix and have found some gems. In fact, recently, I saw an Argentinean film called Sidewalls (Medianeras). It turned out to be a sweet, not-so-typical-romance movie; a modern romance if you will.
Buenos Aires, 2011. The way in which this film was shot brings out the beauty of the city, though one gets a glimpse every now and again of the filthiness which a city of that size often has associated with it. In a city of nearly 13 million, it must seem near to impossible to find a love match. This modern age sees many people living their lives through their computer and primarily being shut-ins who only leave home long enough to get groceries. Yes, even in Argentina!
First, we meet Martín during the initial seven minutes. He suffers from a debilitating phobia of the city and regularly sees a psychiatrist. As a way to combat and treat his fear, the psychiatrist recommends Martín take up photography because it will help him to rediscover the beauty of the city. I’m pretty certain Martín has other issues besides this as he also will not use public transportation or even consider taking a plane anywhere. Everywhere Martín goes, he carries his “survival” backpack loaded with what he considers necessary should he be out all day taking photographs, including “a plastic card about how to proceed in case of an accident or panic attack.” From the looks of the card, its sole purpose is for whomever finds him, not for himself.
Then, we meet Mariana during the following four minutes. She has been an architect for two years with no actual constructions to show for it. So instead of designing buildings, Mariana “designs” windows. She seems to have a bit of an obsession with her mannequins; they fill her tiny apartment. (Somewhat) recently, Mariana has found herself alone again after a four-year relationship; a change which she likens to moving “back five spaces” in the Game of Life. On the surface she seems more stable than Martín, though she has a fear of crowds and elevators; issues of her own to conquer. We only get a peek into her life in those four minutes and only learn of her phobias as the movie progresses along.
It seemed odd to me in the beginning that nearly double the time should be spent when introducing Martín. As the movie went on, I began to see Mariana’s character needed to be unfolded a layer at a time due to her complexity; a complexity which she seemed to disguise by her placid outward appearance. Mariana struggles with being alone and having a futile sense, almost lamenting, over ever meeting the right man in a city the size of her own. She has a book from childhood, “Where’s Waldo? (Donde Esta Waldo?)”, which she credits with her fear of crowds. All because she could not solve one of the puzzles (Wally in the City), Mariana says she feels “the fear of knowing I’m one lost person among millions.” She ponders over the paradox, “If I can’t find a person when I know who I’m looking for, how can I find a person when I don’t know who I’m looking for?” I think this thought encapsulates the feelings of many people today. Over all, this movie and these characters resonate with me as I believe they will for others.
Did I mention, they both have crappy little apartments with little light coming in from outdoors?
About an hour into the movie the seasons finally reach Spring, at nearly the same time Martín and Mariana decide to add another window into their respective domiciles (which by the by, is illegal!). While listening to the radio (a station which they both are tuned into), they both sing along to what is essentially the theme of this movie; “True Love Will Find You in The End” by Daniel Johnston. First, Mariana moves to her new window to take in the new view; then, Martín hops up to take a gander out his own. He spies her first and smiles at her location, then she notices his location and smiles back. Their windows open up into advertisements painted on the sides of their buildings.
It’s funny, Martín and Mariana seem like the perfect couple. That is until you realize they are not only not a couple but haven’t even met. Although, they do nearly meet a handful of times, once about ten and a half minutes into the movie and again with roughly ten minutes remaining to the film. And while this fact might leave some disgruntled and annoyed, this all serves a purpose because it simply wasn’t time for them to meet yet; each had some healing to do from their respective previous relationships. Rest assured they do meet! 😀 I love how they meet in the end more than how they could have met any time earlier in the movie! It’s just so sweet!
This movie does a wonderful job of showing how wholly similar the circumstances of Argentinians and Americans are in their search to end their singlehood; for that matter singles the world over. A good deal of time throughout the film is spent getting to know the inner thoughts and workings of the two main characters, making them easier to relate to our everyday lives.