Suddenly

English Title: Suddenly

Original Title: Tan de repente

Country of Origin: Argentina

Studio: Lita Stantic

Director: Diego Lerman

Producer(s): Diego Lerman, Lita Stantic

Screenplay: Diego Lerman, María Meira

Cinematographer: Diego del Piano, Luciano Zito

Art Director: Mauro do Porto, Luciana Kohn

Editor: Benjamín Ávila, Alberto Ponce

Runtime: 90 minutes

Genre: Sex and Gender

Starring/Cast: Carla Crespo, Verónica Hassan, Tatiana Saphir, Beatriz Thibaudin

Year: 2002

Other Information:

Composer:

Juan Ignacio Bouscayrol

Murciélago

Format:
B/W, 35 mm 

 


Synopsis:

Marcia works in a lingerie shop in Buenos Aires. One day, suddenly, Mao confronts Marcia on the street and declares her immediate attraction to the stranger. Marcia does not believe her, but when Mao’s girlfriend Lenin pulls a knife on Marcia, she accompanies them. The girls steal a taxi and blindfold Marcia as they drive to the sea. After they run out of gas, the girls’ road trip continues as they get rides from other strangers, ending up in Rosario, where Lenin’s elderly aunt Blanca lives. Marcia and Mao go to bed together at Blanca’s house, while Lenin bonds with her aunt. The next morning, Mao takes Marcia’s clothes and leaves. Dejected, Marcia bonds with Blanca’s boarder, Delia. Meanwhile, Mao gets ice cream with Blanca’s other boarder, Felipe. The various couples fight and connect, share a group dinner and watch Blanca perform a bolero. Then one afternoon, they go on a boat ride. Suddenly, Blanca dies (off-screen). The characters go about their lives.

 


Critique:

The arty drama Suddenly is an engrossing road movie about a trio of women searching for love or something like it. Shot in luminous black and white, this low-budget film, directed and co-written by Diego Lerman, features gorgeous imagery and excels in capturing the complex emotional arcs of its central characters.

 

In keeping with the style of New Argentine Cinema, not much happens as the film’s three females travel from Buenos Aires to Rosario, but their personalities slowly emerge and transform. Suddenly may not be a film of great action, but it is an outstanding character study of three very lost women. Disconcerted by Mao’s sexual advances, Marcia is more or less kidnapped. Lerman creates a nice tension between the characters in these initial scenes and it percolates throughout the film. However, the relationship between Mao and Lenin – they claim to be lovers, but not girlfriends – is never addressed. Instead, the story concentrates on the burgeoning affair between Mao and Marcia. Although neither woman claims to be a lesbian, they both seem to find an uneasy comfort in each other.

 

Mao does eventually have sex with Marcia in Rosario, yet curiously the women’s intimacy does not bring them any closer. Marcia seeks out Delia for friendship and Mao gravitates toward Felipe. Meanwhile, Lenin reconnects with her aunt, whom she has not seen in at least a decade.

 

In this second half of Suddenly Lerman really hits his stride as a filmmaker. Not only does he show off his terrific eye for composition – shots of an old woman sitting at an empty table or Blanca’s face in the sun are fantastic – but he mines each scene for the characters’ genuine emotions. As they pair off with one another, a kind of symmetry develops, and each young woman finds an outlet for finding her self-respect.

 

Although Marcia reveals her thoughts in her conversations with Delia, she is equally thoughtful just looking in a mirror or sitting quietly on a bed. Likewise, when Lenin tucks Blanca into bed and they talk about Lenin’s mother, what is not said is quite telling. Lerman wisely uses these unspoken moments to allow audiences to fill in the blanks about the characters. In contrast, Mao is more of an enigma, masking her insecurity with a hard exterior. But her actions, which include stealing Marcia’s clothes and shoplifting food from a bodega, speak volumes.

 

Suddenly never reaches any big narrative crescendo – the most significant event happens off-screen – but the film excels in creating a distinctive mood and atmosphere. The only dramatic misstep is an episode involving a trucker who gives the girls a ride. This sequence, typical of the New Argentine Cinema, contains an incident that is freighted with importance, and yet is surprisingly unmoving.

 

Lerman coaxes wonderful performances from his entire ensemble cast, but Saphir and Thibaudin are the two standouts. Saphir is lovingly filmed in close-ups and the strength of her expressive performance is enhanced by Lerman’s attention to her. Thibaudin is also memorable in her role. As Mao and Lenin, both Crespo and Hassan are enjoyable to watch, particularly when they misbehave.

 

Suddenly may not be high drama, but it is an absorbing film. The characters are not always likable, and still Lerman makes them sympathetic. And best of all, he films it beautifully.

 

A version of this review was originally published in Philadelphia Gay News, 12 December 2003.

 

Author of this review: Gary M Kramer