In Uruguay people say "whisky" to make themselves smile before a camera, much as English speakers say "cheese", and the refined pleasures of this film certainly have more to do with that drink's aromatically bitter taste than with any quality of cheesiness. After their debut 25 Watts (1999) put Uruguay's film industry on the world map, writer/directors Pablo Stoll and Juan Pablo Rebella have returned with a bone-dry comedy of loneliness, regret and quiet resignation. And for all its austerity, Whisky never fails to surprise and intrigue.

A gruff, sixtysomething owner of an old sock factory, Jacobo Koller (Andes Pazos) rarely smiles and gives little away. Yet, when he asks Marta (Mirella Pascual) to pretend to be his wife during a visit from his more successful, married brother Hermano (Jorge Bolani), he does not need to explain himself, for Marta understands perfectly. After all, she has been his forewoman for years, and knows him like clockwork. So they get a mock-up wedding photograph taken ("Say 'whisky'") and despite, or perhaps because of, their minimal interactions, they really do seem like a genuine middle-aged couple, with Marta compensating for Jacobo's stern silences by charming their visitor.

Copy picture

Hermano invites the "couple" to join him for a few days at an off-season resort. There he hopes to make amends with his brother, who had taken care of their ailing mother and the family business, while he had been establishing his own sock factory and family in Brazil. In the drab seaside setting, as all three keep encountering a pair of much younger newlyweds, Marta momentarily rediscovers her youthful passion and Jacobo takes an uncharacteristic gamble, but is it already too late for the three of them to escape their moribund routines of solitude?

Like the factory that he has grudgingly inherited, Jacobo has seen better days. Unable by himself to fix the broken blinds in his office, he is dependent on Marta (who knows a repairman) not to face a future permanently shrouded in gloom. She too needs someone to fill the great emptiness in her life, while Hermano, though not entirely lacking in spark, has become a slave to the demands of his work. So it is that Stoll and Rebella have taken a potentially farcical triangle and built from it a bleak meditation on twilit lives and lost opportunities. It might all be unbearably depressing were it not so painfully funny, with a beautifully spare script, Perquena Orquesta Reincidentes' languid soundtrack and a trinity of performances so drolly deadpan that the characters' absurdities end up being as pronounced as their tragedies.

So drink in the mature flavours of Whisky and feel yourself grinning in spite of yourself.

Reviewed on: 16 Dec 2005
Share this with others on...
Whisky packshot
A comedy from Uruguay that tackles the absurdities of solitude and the pretense of a marriage.
Amazon link

Director: Juan Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll

Writer: Gonzalo Delgado, Juan Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll

Starring: Andres Pazos, Mirella Pascual, Jorge Bolani, Jose Pedro Bujaruz, Veronica Perrota, Mariana Velazquez, Fernando Pereyra, Ana Katz, Daniel Hendler

Year: 2004

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Uruguay / Argentina / Germany / Spain


Search database: