Simon Of The Mountain


Reviewed by: Sergiu Inizian

Simon Of The Mountain
"This playfully filmed coming-of-age narrative never loses its empathetic eye."

In his feature debut, Argentinian director Federico Luis weaves a vibrant story around a young man's desire to fit in with a group of teenagers and young adults with cognitive disabilities. As the titular character seeks to find himself within a space where he is made to feel like a stranger, conflict arises, revealing painful imprints in his personality and past. This playfully filmed coming-of-age narrative never loses its empathetic eye, accurately capturing the hopes and desires of marginalised teens through Simón, who has a touching story. Yet, his personality and motives never fully pierce through the ambiguity that engulfs him, leaving the viewer with a load of sympathy, but not a lot of answers.

Simón (Lorenzo Ferro) spends his time at a school for children with additional support needs, playing in the pool and participating in theatre rehearsals. He stands out as he seems shy and rarely interacts with others, except Pehuén (Pehuén Pedre), who he considers his good friend. After getting in trouble, the school administration quickly finds out he doesn't have disability certificate on file. His mother (Laura Nevole) is introduced, which acts as a clarification that Simón isn't disabled, nor is he enrolled at the school. The director captures a palpable tension between him and his only parent. They both struggle to communicate their needs, finding difficulty in rebuilding their family without his father, whose presence is only seen in nostalgic archival videos.

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Taking the mantle of the father figure, his mother's boyfriend Agustin (Agustín Toscano) is a rough man who attempts to offer the 21-year-old a path to adulthood, showing him the ropes by including him in a moving business. Yet this does more harm to Simón, as Agustin reveals himself to be incapable of understanding the young man's desire to associate with his disabled peers. Constantly running away from home, the protagonist seeks solace in the carefree activities of the group. Finding purpose in teaching Pehuen how to drive and wild games like destroying abandoned furniture with the group, Simón spontaneously gains a family that embraces him freely as his mother’s hostile attitude only drives him further away.

The director employs jovial camera work to express the life-affirming attitude which surrounds Simon when spending time with Pehuén's group. It's a cinematic eye that thrives on capturing laughter and subtle looks, which Simón has his fair share of. Catching the attention of Colo (Kiara Supini), one of the girls from the centre, their connection embodies a soft take on young infatuation. A fondness which increases in tension as he attempts to maintain the facade behind his supposed disability.

Camera and fine sound work confidently capture Simón's conflicted feelings, their intensity, and his struggle in dealing with them. Using a hearing aid to affect those around him, the protagonist adjusts the volume as he pleases. Rendered in an unprocessed fashion, the sound of Simón's experiences delivers the dissonance of a broken family, the promise of love and the silence of rejection. It's an artful representation of a complex inner life, a psychological profile that narratively is too ambiguous to make a lasting impact.

A hard-to-read protagonist, Simón's strength lies in the empathy with which Luis surrounds him. His enigmatic eyes and hidden motivations confuse the narrative to a degree but his journey reveals an affection for youthfulness and buoyancy. These feelings stand at the core of a feature debut that tackles the result of familial disunity and the temporary haven found within a group that displays genuine acceptance.

Reviewed on: 15 May 2024
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Simon is 21 years old. He introduces himself as a mover's helper. He claims not to know how to cook or clean the bathroom, but he does know how to make a bed. Recently, he seems to have become a different person…

Director: Federico Luis

Writer: Tomas Murphy, Federico Luis, Agustín Toscano

Starring: Lorenzo Ferro, Pehuen Pedre, Kiara Supini

Year: 2024

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay


Cannes 2024

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