Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Practice (2015) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
This ensemble absurdist comedy centring on a hapless Argentinian yoga instructor in Chile and his extended circle is appropriately loose-limbed in structure, although a little overstretched here and there.
Esteban Bigliardi plays Gustavo, whose yoga studio is just about the only full thing in his life. He’s already split up with his wife Vanesa (Manuela Oyarzun), a fellow yogi, although they’re still going through the motions of attending therapist appointments. Vanesa got to keep their apartment, where she now continues to teach much smaller classes, while Gustavo kept the studio but moved into brother-in-law and his wife’s fog bank of a flat - “He smokes and his wife is an idiot,” everyone tells him in just one of Martín Rejtman long-running scripted jokes.
Gustavo is aiming for samadhi - the state of “joyful calm” aimed for by the Ashtanga Yoga tradition - but while he is permanently in a state of calmness thanks to Bigliardi’s delightful deadpan performance, it’s hard to ascertain whether life is bringing him any emotion at all. Nothing seems to go right for him. An earth tremor causes an accident that leads a student (Celine Wempe) to lose her memory - although that might not be the worst thing that could happen from his perspective - and another ‘trial’ student appears to have robbed the place blind. That’s before you get to the fact he’s torn a meniscus in his knee, with a repeated sound effect designed to elicit just the right combination of a laugh and a cringe. The one bright spot is an encounter with an ex-student Laura (Camila Hirane), although even that is fraught with Gustavo’s inaction.
Separately, the plot follows Vanesa’s tentative steps towards romance with a biker named Rodrigo (Gabriel Canas) and both her and Gustavo’s trips to a retreat run by another yogi (Amparo Noguera) who also seems to be a considerable distance from bliss. Rejtman has plenty of fun creating his characters, and poking some gentle fun at the nature of guru-led clean living along the way. But while much of the visual humour works perfectly thanks to good timing and framing, some of the running gags seem more suited to a sprint than the marathon Rejtman takes them on. There’s also a fair amount of manipulation when it comes to getting the characters into the positions with each other that he wants them to, not least an overelaborate episode involving some of Vanesa and Gustavo’s old furniture and some extended business with Rodrigo’s bike.
Bigliardi’s sweet sincerity keeps us with him as he slowly realises that sometimes you have to break with your routine in order to really stretch yourself.Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2023