Film Review: Esteros

Childhood best friends reconnect in this sweet, sun-drenched LGBT romance.
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Not to start off this review with a seeming non sequitur—but the last ten days have been something of a bear for American audiences wading through the fallout of a controversial Presidential election. If you think the connection between a Trump presidency and Esteros, a low-budget Argentinian movie from a first-time director with no actors with any substantial stateside presence is a bit tenuous…yeah, OK, it is. But I have a point, and the point is this: Esteros may fly under the radar for most American moviegoers, especially at a time when higher-profile indie Oscar hopefuls are beginning to flock to theatres en masse. But if a pick-me-up is what you need, this film delivers.

Clocking in at a slim 83 minutes, this modest, sweetly affecting romance centers on Matías (Joaquín Parada) and Jerónimo (Blas Finardi Niz), childhood best friends who while away blissful summers swimming, dancing and sunbathing on Jerónimo’s family’s farm. The burgeoning romance between the two is brought to a screeching halt when Matías’ father accepts a job in Brazil; it’s over a decade before the two see each other again, when an adult Matías (Ignacio Rogers) visits his hometown, girlfriend Rochi (Renata Calmon) in tow.

The dynamics here are nothing we haven’t seen before—Matías is uptight, career-oriented and insecure in his sexuality, while Jerónimo (Esteban Masturini) has blossomed into an unapologetically gay boho artiste unable to hold down a job or a relationship for any length of time. He represents freedom, Matías repression.

What director Papu Curotto and screenwriter Andi Nachon do well here is letting the push-and-pull between Matías and Jerónimo unfold organically, instead of pumping up the melodrama. The chemistry between Rogers and Masturini is palpable and speaks for itself without too much dramatic embellishment. Matías and Jerónimo are clearly still attracted to each other after all these years, though both are unwilling to upset the delicate balance between them with accusations or arguments or, really, much by way of discussion of their shared past. Events meander along slowly yet inevitably, dovetailing nicely with the atmosphere of the lazy, bucolic wetlands from which Esteros takes its name.

The film that results may be too low-key for some. And there is the fact that, as alluded to previously, this is all stuff we’ve seen before: the character types, the will-they-or-won’t-they, the “one magic summer” nostalgia. But though Esteros’ story isn’t particularly original, it’s told in an assured, compelling fashion, bolstered by gorgeous lensing of the Argentinian countryside from cinematographer Eric Elizondo. Nothing too bad happens here: Matías, though initially not entirely comfortable with his attraction to Jerónimo, doesn’t engage in the conspicuous self-loathing that often pops up in other LGBT films. Even Rochi, when the truth about Matías and Jerónimo eventually comes out, doesn’t go the clichéd “wronged woman” route. Sweet, sexy and romantic, Esteros is a worthwhile distraction for anyone who needs 83 minutes to divorce themselves from the hectic real world.

Click here for cast and crew information.