22 September 2016 | jm10701
Beautifully written, directed and acted movie about grief... and maybe more
This is a very beautifully written, directed and acted movie about a carefree, well-to-do (they have a pool in the city and a house at the beach) young man in Buenos Aires named Ignacio ("Nacho"), 21 years old, who suddenly loses his parents and much younger brother (around five years old)—apparently in a road accident, although it's never specified.
He is immediately confronted not only with unbearable grief but with financial catastrophe, because his father's prosperous import/export business is being run by an associate (Carlos) who tells him the business (which Nacho apparently now owns) had been failing for a long time and can no longer support him as it had been doing. He will have to get a job for the first time in his life.
One of the challenges in watching this wonderful movie is that nothing is explained, there's no narrator telling us what happened. The movie just starts cold, with Nacho's first meeting with Carlos after the accident—although we don't even know yet why the meeting is taking place or why Nacho is such a wreck emotionally. Carlos tells him the business is failing, which Nacho doesn't believe, but he's too devastated by grief to do much about it.
The back story is filled in with occasional flashbacks to Nacho's full and happy life before the accident (hence the movie's title), and the contrast with his present distress is devastating. Nacho doesn't even look like the same person.
Besides Nacho and Carlos, the main characters (both before and after the catastrophe) are Nacho's girlfriend Ana, his very openly gay best friend Tomás, and Tomás's wonderful mother Silvia, on whom Nacho had a huge crush a few years earlier. The various ways those other characters try to help Nacho, and his painfully clumsy, erratic and self-defeating responses to their offers of help, make up most of the "after" story. It's sad, and sometimes I felt like shaking Nacho to wake him out of his grieving fog, but that's how grief is.
What makes such a sad story so wonderful to watch is the amazing skill and talent that went into making it. The screenplay and direction (both by Daniel Gimelberg) are fantastic. All of the flashbacks come at the right times and in the right ways, so they're always helpful, never distracting.
Despite the total lack of explication, the story is easy to follow because it all feels so REAL, like I'm watching real people living through the hardships instead of watching actors in a movie. I wouldn't know every detail about real people, and I don't know everything there is to know about these characters.
And those actors... Wow! Every one of them is amazing; but Nahuel Pérez Biscayart as Tomás and Verónica Llinás as his mother Silvia are especially good, never "acting", just being the characters. However, it's Nahuel Viale as Nacho who really shines and makes the movie work. He's in almost every scene, and he's always perfect. As I said, he doesn't even look like the same person before and after.
I've simplified this movie a lot, maybe too much. It's much more complex than I've made it seem. The lack of explication and even of what would be essential information in a more conventional movie (like, how did Nacho's family die? They're shown driving away for a vacation at their beach house, but we're never told what happened to them) leaves room for almost endless speculation about what is really going on.
And weird bits that seem meaningless (like switching the music cassette in the car's radio) are given so much attention that it creates a dark, almost sinister atmosphere, hinting that Nacho may be suffering more than grief, and that his life may not really have been as perfect "before" as the flashbacks make it seem. Or that Carlos may be more than just a thief (if he really even IS a thief). A lot more is happening in this movie than we will ever know.
I'm amazed that Antes didn't win awards at major film festivals around the world, that it wasn't picked up for release in the US. It's a perfect gem—sophisticated, complex, intelligent, and beautifully executed on every level. It's a shame that almost no one has seen it.
I would gladly pay almost any price for a DVD, but, as far as I can discover, none is available. However (thank God) it's available to watch for free online, at Blu-ray (1080p) resolution and with excellent optional English subtitles. The movie flows so beautifully, and the subtitles are so good, that I never felt like I was reading; it was as if I could somehow understand everything they were saying in Spanish. That's how all subtitles ought to be but almost never are.
I can't insert a direct link to the video, but if you search for "antes", "english" and "gimelberg" you'll find it.