Eye For Film >> Movies >> One In A Thousand (2020) Film Review
One In A Thousand
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Typically, films which centre teenagers focus on their vulnerability and all the things that they don’t yet know or understand. It’s easy to forget how alert they often are to these things themselves, how resilient they can be and how skilled at pursuing, acquiring and adapting to new knowledge. Clarisa Navas’ San Sebastian prize winner follows three teenagers from the Las Mil Casas district of Corrientes in Northern Argentina, whose lives only tangentially intersect with those of adults but whose networks of support and friendship are at least as powerful as an organisation of hostile interests in their neighbourhood.
It centres on Iris (Sofia Cabrera), who has recently been expelled from school and has found a sort of refuge with her cousins Darío (Mauricio Vila) and Ale (Luis Molina). All three are immediately positioned as outsiders because of their sexuality, but they’re part of a larger youth community in which sexuality – and gender – are fluid things and not as socially limiting as, say, Iris’ refusal to drink alcohol. A keen basketball level with a fair bit of skill (albeit no sign of a team), she’s protective of her health, something which others find peculiar. It’s not so much that their slender years afford them the illusion of immortality as that they don’t give much thought to the future at all; they don’t expect to meet it. Everything that matters is here and now.
Following her subjects through the tangled streets, in an out of small concrete houses or under the archways and up the stairwells where they take shelter, Navas observes them almost as if she were filming a documentary, perhaps without permission. Sometimes they are glimpsed at a distance, engaging in interactions which we cannot catch all of. Her takes are long, her location sprawling. The dialogue is rapid and often unclear (you may want to watch this with subtitles even if you’re a native Spanish speaker). The performances are absolutely fresh. We observe the young people as they mill around, largely devoid of purpose, engaging in frank discussion about all manner of things, as if the latest witty comedy about artsy middle class New Yorkers had been transplanted into an impoverished community with very different rules.
As in most of those comedies, there isn’t a great deal of story here. The plot, such as it is, tracks Iris’ growing obsession with Renata (Ana Carolina Garcia), an older woman who has recently returned to the estate. Local gossip has it that Renata is a sex worker, that she’s HIV positive, that she’s crazy. Iris is the sort of person who finds this intriguing. The physical attraction seems to be mutual, and the pair snatch moments of intimacy wherever they can in an environment where practically everything happens outdoors and people are always moving around. But Iris is worried. The community is policed by its members through humiliation, with secret films making their way onto the internet. To be seen to be close to Renata is to risk contamination by her low social status. Though she’s less alert to it, there are also issues from Renata’s past which could put both of them in danger.
At two hours, the film is too long. It benefits from having time to meander but there is, in the end, too much of this, and tightening up the story would make it easier for those not personally familiar with such communities to connect. Nevertheless, Navas makes some powerful points as she captures life on the margins. Many members of her cast are amateurs playing versions of themselves. She does nothing to polish their world – and yet there is a good deal of warmth in the film, and a reminder that survival is possible in such environments because people look out for each other. Poverty may be endemic, adults largely absent and escape unlikely, but life finds a way.Reviewed on: 29 Nov 2021