Interlude (2016)

[original title: Interludio]

A family is at a breaking point. The parents’ marriage has ended, but the children are not supposed to know. And it has not even really sunk in yet with the mother herself.
We never see or hear from the father. And we never hear of the circumstances that led to the separation – although a reason is given, albeit in just one line. This is setting the narrative frame for the entire film. What has happened in the past is of no interest for this film – it deals with the immediate aftermath. The mother, Sofia, packs her two daughters into the car and whisks them away to the seaside (in scenes filmed at La Lucila del Mar), where some friend or family member has a small vacation home. It is clearly the off-season – it is windy, foggy, and the beach is practically deserted.
Interlude depicts these three female characters at this crisis point and shows how they deal with the sudden changes and with various anxieties that plague each of them in different ways.

 

What could have been the base material for a run-of-the-mill melodrama, has been turned by writer/director Nadia Benedicto into a carefully woven observation of three female characters that keeps its dramatic and comedic elements in a nice balance. Interlude has strong fairy-tale vibes: the three female protagonists – fragile and strong at the same time – all have valves that help them to release the pressure, often by mixing fantasy and reality. And yet there is nothing surreal about this film. One or two elements may be slightly absurd, and there are some brave editing choices that make reality and fantasy blur on occasion, but that does not change the fact that these characters are firmly based in real life, even if this reality is sprinkled with a bit of fairy-dust now and again.

First time writer/director Benedicto, who also co-produced the film, calls Interlude “fictionally autobiographical”, as it is first and foremost fiction but still contains a few elements from her own childhood.

 

The film’s strongest asset is its cast, with the four main characters being played by Leticia Mazur, Sofia del Tuffo, Lucía Aráoz de Cea, and Lucía Frittayón. Other major contributions to this near-perfect little film come from composer Wolly von Foerster and cinematographer Matías Quinzio. The film also has a nice way of ascribing a specific part of the colour palette to each character, an idea for which Benedicto credited her art director Flor Penélope Núñez.

 

The film tells only a very small story – it is chiefly a character study – and it is slow-paced. But its short running time of 80 minutes means that you never once get the feeling that the story drags. The characters are written convincingly, but in a way that only focuses on the moment. As I said above, the past is not the focus of the story, only the present. And that is also true for the way these characters are developed: you may feel that some information is missing, and yet you get a very good idea of who these people are merely from accompanying them for a short while at this specific point in time. In that way, Benedicto manages to present a feature film which is populated by captivating characters that remind you a lot of great short films.

 

I am always astonished how first-timers can produce a film in which all pieces fall into place. That is not to say that there are no things in this film that could have been done differently, but it is still a remarkably strong film, which Benedicto deserves full credit for.

 

Rating: 8.5 to 9.0 out of 10

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