Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
Ariel seems frantic to get out of Buenos Aires. You can tell by the fidgety handheld camera and jumpy cuts as he moves through the dowdy shopping arcade where he works in the lingerie shop founded by his father and now run by his mother. Ariel’s Jewish grandparents fled Warsaw at a time when that was a wise move, but it turns out they chose the wrong refuge. In fact, as Argentina lurches from crisis to disaster, everyone in director and co-writer Daniel Burman’s Lost Embrace appears to be looking toward the exit. Asked to officiate at a race being planned to settle a merchants’ dispute, the local rabbi says he would, but he’s moving to Miami Beach. And Ariel (Daniel Hendler) even applies for a Polish passport, which would permit him to live in most of the countries of Europe. Yet the existentially bewildered lingerie salesman doesn’t really want out. Sure, the lingerie shop is a dead end, as is the entire arcade, a collection of declining businesses run mostly by people on the verge of retirement. And Ariel’s casual affair with the woman who runs the Internet-access shop (Silvina Bosco) is also a dubious prospect—she won’t even tell him if the jealous old man who financed her business is her husband. But what Ariel craves more than a new life is an explanation of his current one: why his father left his wife and two baby sons and moved to Israel in 1973. He supposedly went “to go to war,” a defining event that Mom (Adriana Aizenberg) tries to explain with reference to Sunflower, a Vittoria de Sica melodrama in which Marcello Mastroianni fails to return from World War II. In reality, the explanation for Dad’s departure is pretty simple, and it gets revealed in an all-too-tidy final 15 minutes. Before the deflating final sequence, however, this small but perceptive dramedy succeeds as both a psychological portrait and a sociological snapshot. Hendler is engaging as the film’s antsy protagonist, and Burman and Marcelo Birmajer’s script sets the young man’s private crisis amid a wealth of quirky details, including obsolete Korean marriage laws and Ariel’s brother’s attempt to make honey with an “anti-Semitic” queen bee. And before Ariel’s elementary questions are answered, Lost Embrace poses some more complex ones: When does asylum become exile? Why are some anxious to go and others content to stay? And, most important, Who will maintain the traditions the unreligious Ariel discovers he needs in the future, when his own children and grandchildren may also need them? —Mark Jenkins