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Saturday, December 21, 2013

DVD Review: Solo

Solo is a truly interesting and engaging film about two men who meet one night after having chatted online. The film takes place all in one night and basically in one location (though there are flashbacks which take us out of Manuel’s apartment). So it really is the two leads who must hold us captivated and interested, and fortunately their performances are quite strong.

The film opens with Manuel (Patricio Ramos) receiving a phone call from his friend Vicky. We only hear his side of the conversation, about how an unidentified man has finally stopped calling him, and that he’s going to do the usual – eat dinner, watch television, and so on. It’s done in a close-up shot, which produces an intimacy between us and him, so that when he tells Vicky that tomorrow will be another day we want his tomorrow to be a good one. He’s quite good-looking, and has a sweet, disarming smile.

He gets a call from a man he chats with online. The man lives nearby, but hasn’t shared a photo, so Manuel is reluctant to meet him. Again, we only hear Manuel’s side of the conversation. It’s interesting that all of the dialogue at the beginning of the film (thus, all the dialogue establishing his character, his situation) is done as phone conversations, and only one side of those conversations at that. What that does is firmly establish a connection between the audience and this one character. We are ready to view the events from his perspective, as his perspective has quickly becomes ours.

Manuel gets a second call from that man, Julio (Mario VerĂ³n), and this time agrees to meet him on a nearby corner. And they meet. All of this is in the pre-credit sequence.

They walk back to Manuel’s place, this scene set to some somewhat haunting piano music. And when they get inside, Julio begins asking Manuel lots of questions, such as if he lives alone, what the rent is, where he works. When Manuel then asks Julio what he does, Julio responds, “I look at you.”

The entire film then basically takes place in this apartment, but there are flashbacks as Manuel tells Julio about his last boyfriend, Horacio, the first guy he was ever with. Somehow this film makes what is essentially exposition come off as totally engaging. We are drawn in, and drawn to this man as he reveals details of an important relationship.

After Manuel and Julio have sex, Julio begins revealing some unsettling details about his own life, such as the fact that he doesn’t live in the area, that he’s behind in his rent and needs a job. And he tells Manuel he’s not sharing him with anyone.  But then Manuel wants him to leave because Vicky is coming over in the morning. Julio gets upset, but then apologizes for being angry, telling Manuel that he had hoped they would sleep together. It’s weird, because at this moment you feel more for Julio. The film subtly shifts our allegiances.

There are a lot of intense static shots, like the two of them on the stairs as Manuel tries to get Julio to leave. Actually, the shots themselves aren’t intense. But because they’re static, they force us to contribute our own anxieties about what might or might not happen. We become involved as a result of the way the scenes are presented. And that, of course, feels intense. It’s a brilliant way of making us feel uneasy during even the simplest, most innocuous of actions.

The movie hints at some danger, with its tone, with the music, with certain bits of dialogue. And it certainly does not disappoint. It would be wrong to say much more. Though I will say there is a scene after the credits (for those of you who don’t normally watch the credits).

The DVD includes the film’s trailer, but no other special features.

Solo was directed by Marcelo Briem Stamm, and was released on DVD on November 12, 2013 through TLA Releasing.

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