Estranged couple Laura (Katerina D’Onofrio) and Ramón (Lucho Cáceres) meet up after 19 years to sign their long overdue divorce papers.
A bureaucratic mishap -- anyone who’s ever been to a public office in Peru sadly knows how common those are -- forces them to spend an entire afternoon together, where things get said, secrets are revealed, and both parties reminisce on what drove them apart years ago. Sounds like a recipe for a romance, except that Ramon and Laura are former radical leftist militants, and theirs was an intense relationship that didn’t exactly end well.
As the couple walks through the streets of the suburb of Barranco, the camera following their every move and capturing every word of their conversation, it’s clear that director Joel Calero took a page from Richard Linklater and the Before series. The influence is unmistakable, but the director ultimately delivers something a bit more personal and politically charged, that’s less about love and more about two damaged people coming to terms with their past.
In a movie so reliant on dialogue and performances, it’s up to the two actors to make it work; and the lead duo surpasses expectations. As the more emotional side of the pair, D’Onofrio wears Laura’s emotions on her sleeve, a woman who has worked hard to shed her former political tendencies and make a normal life for herself, and paid a high price for it.
Cáceres is more subdued, but no less intense; Ramón clearly still has a huge chip on his shoulder from his life having gone down a much different path than he intended. The pent-up anger and resentment is evident, and when he inevitably explodes, it’s a cathartic moment. This is not a typical love story; while there is affection between the two, it’s clear that they won’t see each other again after this one day, and that’s probably for the best.
Peru’s inner war against the Shining Path terrorist movement in the 1980s and early 90s – which included the MRTA, another extremist group which arose around the same time – is one of the most significant events in the country’s history, and it’s been the subject matter of many films. This one does tackle the topic – after all, Laura and Ramón’s leftist tendencies from their youth brought them close to the same ideals as said groups – but it stays in the background; by centering on his characters, Calero keeps his story intimate and relatable. What is obvious is that Peru’s political past has opened wounds on people that have yet to heal; and just like our leading duo need closure on this chapter of their lives, the country does, too.
La Última Tarde is a film that gives a more humane and grounded view of Peru’s turbulent past, aided by some excellent acting from D’Onofrio and Cáceres, who effortlessly carry the movie on their shoulders. It’s yet another solid local film debuting at this year’s festival.
The Lima Film Festival runs from 5-13 August.