The Blonde One

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Alfonso Barón and Gaston Re in The Blonde One
"Marco Berger's beautifully crafted film explores what it means to live undercover in a proudly straight environment." | Photo: Kit Prensa

It's one of those unspoken rules in flat-sharing situations. You might cook for one another, help each other out with work and share many of the same friends, but you never, ever sleep together - it just leads to too many complications. it's a rule that Gabriel (Gaston Re) and Juan (Alfonso Barón) don't manage to follow, and as if that didn't make matters difficult enough, neither of them is out.

Gabriel, it emerges, has known for a long time that he's attracted to men but has never done much about it. He has a young daughter from a previous relationship who is the centre of his emotional life, and a long distance girlfriend for whom he doesn't seem to feel much passion. Juan is very different, confident, charismatic, used to getting what he wants. He too sleeps with women but doesn't seem to take any relationship very seriously. Might that be different with Gabriel? There's something of that staple of romantic comedies here, the belief that a man might change his ways when he finds true love, but The Blonde One isn't generally played for laughs and its outcome is less certain. This wouldn't matter, of course, if it were only about sex, but it's pretty clear that the two men's physical interactions are having a deeper effect on both of them.

Marco Berger's beautifully crafted film explores what it means to live undercover in a proudly straight environment, paying for the privilege of the sports watching and video games and beers and banter by keeping silent about things that matter more and more, sitting next to a loved one and not being able to touch for fear of being exposed. Each of the main characters experiences this in a different way, Juan having established his priorities long ago but Gabriel undergoing a gradual process of change. It's a story not just about love but about all the other complicated feelings that love can precipitate - and about the different kinds of love that can exist within any one life, as Gabriel's bond with his daughter ultimately leads to something unexpected.

Working with cinematographer Nahuel Berger, the director creates a world where the details of what we see become much more important than most of the conversations we are privy to, and where every touch that the men share speaks volumes. He lets us see the protagonists through one another's eyes and share those quiet moments after something has happened when the emotional impact of it sinks in. Most of the film is quiet, observational, presenting scenes from day to day life, yet from this a powerful narrative emerges, leading up to an ending that invites the viewer to take a leap of faith along with the troubled Gabriel.

This is a beautifully crafted film with superb central performances, especially from Re. It presents gay sex and sexuality simply, plainly, as a part of life, highlighting how rare it is to see them this way onscreen, with the social anxiety they produce seeming all the more absurd as a result. It's a grown-up love story told with unusual intelligence.

Reviewed on: 05 Sep 2019
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Two new flatmates experience a mutual attraction, but can they make it work or is getting involved in this situation asking for trouble?

Director: Marco Berger

Writer: Marco Berger

Starring: Alfonso Barón, Justo Calabria, Antonia De Michelis, Melissa Falter, Malena Irusta, Gaston Re

Year: 2019

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: Argentina

Festivals:

Iris 2019

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