Chronicles Of A Wandering Saint


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Chronicles Of A Wandering Saint
"Even if you might get a hint of the film’s final destination before it arrives, the way Bustillo achieves his aims will leave you with a warm glow." | Photo: Hope Runs High

A magic realist comic fable that ostensibly revolves around religion, Chronicles Of A Wandering Saint has a lot of faith in human nature. Tomás Gómez Bustillo keeps his bag of magic tricks firmly under wraps for his debut feature’s first half, however, as devout and mousy Rita (Mónica Villa) goes about her daily diligence at the local church, dusting, tidying and generally trying to avoid socialising with the other women there while also outdoing them in terms of the priest’s favour.

At home, Rita also feels stuck in a rut, resisting the charms of her sweetly attentive husband Norberto (Horacio Marassi) as he tries to recreate a waterfall holiday from their youth by slipping on a bright yellow rain poncho he’s found. Her sense of ennui is no doubt why she is drawn, like a moth to a light, to a statue she finds squirrelled away at the back of the church, immediately certain that it is a long-lost icon of her sainted namesake. After insisting Norberto helps her schlep it home - a scene which, like several is mined for visual humour by Bustillo - she begins to have doubts. Her “St Rita” has a crown of thorns instead of the cross she should have. “How do I know if something is a miracle,” she frantically Googles. She does not like the response.

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What happens next is deliciously and surprisingly splashy, as Bustillo suddenly shifts the film’s gear to the unexpected rhythms of a euro-pop cover version of Bryan Adams’ Heaven. It’s not so much what he does as the way that he does it, upending expectations while somehow managing to hang on to the overall mood. He also pays attention to detail, such as the priest arriving late to a service after a ride in a Van Helsing Pest Control van.

The rules of beatification may be laid out but there are lessons to be learned far closer to home. While spiking his film with absurdist moments, Bustillo uses light to mine his wholesome themes. There are slices of it in the church where Rita finds a statue and later, in one of Chronicles most touching moments, we’ll see Norberto hold a phone light to his sleeping wife’s masked face after coming home from work, just to share a moment with her.

Light too, proves irresistible to a late night moth Rita encounters, while an entire scene plays out like a series of still frames as the action is intermittently caught by flashes of lightning, adding an unexpected shot of poignancy. Key to all this is veteran star Villa, who perfectly calibrates Rita’s shifting moods. Even if you might get a hint of the film’s final destination before it arrives, the way Bustillo achieves his aims will leave you with a warm glow.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2024
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When a devout elderly woman finds a statue she think is long lost, what she decides to do next upends her life.

Director: Tomas Gomez Bustillo

Writer: Tomas Gomez Bustillo

Starring: Monica Villa, Horacio Marassi, Pablo Moseinco, Silvia Mackenzie, Noemi Ron, Silvia Porro, Hernan Bustamante, Dahyana Turkie, Iair Said

Year: 2023

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Argentina, US


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