The latest film by Chilean director Fernando Lavanderos, Las cosas como son (Things the way they are), is maybe one of the best fiction films that has come out of Chile in a long time, even better than the Italian co-produced film The Future directed by Alicia Scherson and all the Sebastián Silva-Michael Cera pictures that you can come up with. This is the real deal, and I wish that this movie makes it out there for all people to see, as it plays with universal values and, above all, it's just an entertaining and thrilling story.
It has won the Best Latinamerican Film award at last year's Mar del Plata Film Festival, it took the Best Director prize at the Havana Film Festival in New York, also last year, as well as multiple prizes in different Chilean festivals, and more recently won the Independent Camera award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. This film also carries one of the strongest main performances from a mature non-actor that I've seen in a long time; it's a surprise to see this power in the actions and in the eyes of the character.
Jerónimo (played by famous photographer Cristóbal Palma) is a strange guy, he is in charge of a guest house that only lodges foreign people who are visiting Chile, either for fun, work or study. He usually doesn't take part in the activities of his guests, being apathetic and at times emotionally disturbed by their presence (though he needs them there for the house to sustain itself), even going to the limits of cutting the power just when they're in the middle of a goodbye party for most of the people who are staying there.
Summer has started and people don't want to stay in the capital, Santiago, where there's no beaches or forests to explore, so foreigners from all over the world start to travel north or south. One day a new girl comes to the guest house, Sanna (Ragni Orsal), who immediately catches the attention of Jerónimo, even though he still treats her with the same indifference and coldness that he treats the other people. They are alone in the house every night; she is working every day at a local public school doing a drama class, and he keeps himself busy painting and refurnishing the old house in which he also lives.
One night, she brings home two friends from the school in which she works, but Jerónimo quickly advises her not to do it again, an understandable position, since he's afraid of what people might do inside his house while he can't watch it ... but this attitude just adds to the list of strange things that Jerónimo does to Sanna, as he enters her locked room (using his master key), reading her diary (taking pictures of it to later translate them on Google Translate), sniffing her clothes and ointments, as well as checking her computer and pictures. He is obviously a creep who tries to communicate with her through other ways, but he is just too awkward and shy to do something about it.
Sanna and Jerónimo start to talk and know each other a bit better, thanks to his own advances and new knowledge and because of her overall nice attitude, but a spoilerific event takes place in the middle of the movie that just destabilizes the balance between the two, putting the trust and the attitudes of Jerónimo to a test, while also discovering the more playful and darker side of what seemed to be a nice Sanna.
This is a strong and powerful drama about the power of trust between people, especially when there's the barrier of language, social status, background and culture. It's an intersection of three different universes, collapsing and trying to influence one another, like a system that infects one another, each particular element of the system with a particular disease that spreads uniformly to the other elements, and vice versa ... no one leaves unaffected by the end of the film, and so will the audience. This is one of the greatest movies of the year and maybe one of the 10 best Chilean movies that have come out in the past five years (a really good past five years).
This movie opens today (August 8) on four screens in Santiago, Chile. Go see it now.