Chinese Take-Away

Chinese Take-Away

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Roberto (Ricardo Darín) is a hardware store owner who may be short of a few screws. He's impatient with his customers, angry with his suppliers, and simply unable to come to terms with his feelings for the attractive friend who is smitten with him. But one day Roberto meets a young Chinese man who is alone in Buenos Aires, lost and unable to speak a word of Spanish. His instinctive offer of help is the beginning of a strange friendship that will change his life.

Beautfully shot and benefitting from sumptuously detailed set design, Chinese Take-Away is a tragicomic tale that mixes traditional narrative with magical realist vignettes. Darín is superb in the leading role, sympathetic even at his most misanthropic. Roberto's meanness is often delightful to watch as a dry humour undercuts the most poignant of scenes. Ignacio Huang, meanwhile, does a fantastic job of communicating without words (he sometimes speaks in agitated Cantonese but it's not subtitled). He gives his character a complex emotional life which the audience can bear witness to even whilst his host struggles to connect with it.

Exploring the ideas around a culture clash whilst managing to sidestep most of the more obvious, crude humour there, Chinese Take-Away tells an intimately human story without losing sight of its larger themes. Roberto's own identity as the son of an Italian immigrant becomes significant in the context of Argentina as a country of immigrants united by a few shared experiences like the war with Britain (with glorious pettiness, he refuses to have English drill-bits in his shop). Yet behind all this is the sadness that often spurs travel and shapes who we become. Roberto's struggle to help young Jun Hio find his uncle mirrors his own struggle to accept the loss of his parents.

So smoothly put together that its intelligence isn't always apparent, emerging in sudden bursts, this is a film that will make audiences laugh out loud and also weep. It's an assured piece of work and well worth looking out for.

Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2012
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A grumpy shopkeeper lends a helping hand to a young Chinese man who cannot speak his language, and his life changes forever.
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Director: Sebastián Borensztein

Writer: Sebastián Borensztein

Starring: Ricardo Darín, Muriel Santa Ana, Ignacio Huang

Year: 2011

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Argentina, Spain

Festivals:

Glasgow 2012

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