RiverRun 2018: Desert Bride

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Dir. Cecelia Atán and Valeria Pivato, Argentina, 2017, 78 min

When the camera lingers on an empty house, stripped of a family’s belongings and ready for sale, it’s easy to wonder if the video stream has been interrupted, but it’s likely that the filmmakers intended the emptiness of the room as a metaphor for the protagonist Theresa’s liminal state. (Or maybe, this is proof of the lasting damage social media has sustained to the attention spans of film reviewers.)

Theresa has devoted herself completely to her job as a live-in maid for a family in Buenos Aires and now, taking a bus to an unfamiliar city for an uncertain assignment, she likely has cause to wonder at the age of 54 whether she’s wasted three decades.

During a stop near the site of the miraculous “Saint Correa,” a windstorm whips up and Theresa misplaces her bag, thus providing a device for the film’s exploration of the reawakening of a middle-aged woman. The search forces Theresa to pair up with Gringo, who seems both somewhat shady and magically open to life’s surprises. Their meandering journey across the Argentine desert and awkward conversations seem somewhat random for the first half of the film, until Theresa literally and figuratively lets her hair down. The conclusion is fulfilling, but was the release worth all the tedium that preceded it?

The Desert Bride screens on April 24 at 5 p.m. at SECCA, and on April 25 at 1:30 p.m. and April 28 at 1:30 p.m. at A/perture 2.

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