Viennale 2023 Review: ABOUT THIRTY (ARTURO A LOS 30), Young and Restless in Buenos Aires
Martín Shanly directs and stars in a drama about the shift from the youthful optimism of Generation Y to a growing sense of disillusionment amid life's absurdities.
This has proven to be a strong year for Argentine cinema, with Martín Shanly's About Thirty (Arturo a Los 30) adding to the list.
A follow-up to his debut, About Twelve, the film sees Shanly not only directing but also taking on the lead role. Known for co-writing A Decent Woman, Shanly delves into the existential crises faced by Generation Y. About Thirty portrays Arturo, a character in his thirties, navigating the complexities and disillusionments of modern society.
Arturo's attendance at his friend Dafne's wedding sets off a reflective spiral in his life. While the wedding itself is a source of discomfort for the protagonist, it is not the main catalyst for the film's foray into cringe comedy.
Instead, it's a post-wedding car accident involving several guests that propels the narrative. After the dramatic yet non-fatal overturning of the car, the guests emerge unscathed and proceed to the wedding party. In contrast, a shaken and distraught Arturo lags behind, triggering flashbacks to significant moments from his recent past.
The traumatic experience at the wedding doesn't cause Arturo to view his life as a film, but rather, it brings to the surface a series of awkward, cringe-worthy moments, emblematic of a post-quarter-life crisis. While struggling to make sense of his existence, it becomes clear that Arturo doesn't conform to the conventional expectations of a person in their thirties.
Shanly portrays Arturo as a quintessential man-child, drifting through life. However, the film illustrates his aimlessness, stagnation, and alienation not just as personal failings but as reflections of the times. Shanly suggests that these are, in part, the result of external factors, including the global COVID-19 health crisis.
About Thirty profoundly captures the existential angst prevalent in modern life. Shanly's creation is not only a testament to his artistic sensibilities but also serves as a reflective mirror to a generation grappling to find its place in the world.
Diverging from the typical mold of Apatow comedies, Shanly's About Thirty carries a bittersweet tone, depicting its protagonist entangled in life's absurdities. This film serves as a generational dramedy, portraying the unique challenges encountered by individuals in this life stage. Arturo, while not always demonstrating sound judgement and eager to assist friends, exhibits a reluctance to seek help for himself.
About Thirty echoes the essence of a Scandinavian family dramedy, reminiscent of Thomas Vinterberg's Gen Y-centric The Celebration, yet centers on a singular individual with a Kaufmanesque recursive storytelling, fragmented narrative.
As the film progresses, the disruption of linear chronology creates a sense of disorientation, with past and present intermingling. This stylistic choice effectively conveys not only the shock following the car accident but also the tumultuous chaos characterizing Arturo's life, marked by a series of awkward misadventures interspersed with introspective moments.
In About Thirty, Shanly contrasts the naive optimism of youth with the inevitable disillusionment that arises from life's absurdities and challenges. However, the film suggests that the predicament of its protagonist, Arturo, is not solely the result of unfavorable circumstances.
In a state of desperation and financial distress, Arturo opts for an ayahuasca retreat, a choice that ultimately fails to resolve his issues. In this tragicomedy, Arturo is portrayed as partially responsible for his situation. Yet, through his trials, he comes to realize that life doesn't follow a script, and that both words and choices carry significant consequences.
The film screened recently at the Vienna International Film Festival. Visit the festival site for more information.
Arturo a los 30
- Martín Shanly
- Ana Godoy
- Federico Lastra
- Victoria Marotta
- Martita Alchourrón
- Miel Bargman
- Francisco Bertín