Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

A man wakes up on the floor of an ATM kiosk. It's night. He's alone, but for the aforementioned ATM, beeping impatiently for him to take his money. Bleary-eyed, he completes the transaction, and stumbles out into the night.

Who attacked him? Why? How long has he been unconscious? Disconnecting the viewer from such crucial (assumed) facts is a classic hook, yet here such disconnection is precisely what the film is about.

The man is a taxidermist, and as such spends much of his time alone, recreating accusingly lifelike animals from their own dead furs. Work for which disconnection is an essential quality.

Yet he actually maintains this distance from everything else in his life too. His objectivity enables him to plan a bank robbery down to the finest detail, yet with so little experience of interaction, he lacks any of the confidence necessary to make it happen.

He can't even face a hunting weekend with his (apparently) only friend, but when his wife leaves him, his need to connect with someone forces him to make a half-hearted attempt. He goes, but cannot bring himself to share the reason why.

Fearing the death of one of the animals he's been stuffing for a living, he ruins the day for his friend, and winds up left alone with a stroppy teenage boy, a dog, and a similarly uncommuicative battered woman. Oh, and a corpse. Not much chance of making any connection with this lot.

And yet, therein lies his strength. As the odd people he meets try to fill in his silent blanks, he gently slides into assuming the dead guy's identity, and inherits the guy's dodgy scheme to rob the local casino. Playing along with these people's expectations of him is his only way of escaping punishment for the criminal's murder, but it's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn his incredible mental skills into actions.

The publicity for this movie makes a great deal of the "complex" robbery, yet it is far more about both the safety and tragedy of avoiding getting hurt. The battered woman is desperate to escape her abusive husband, and personifies the lead character's fears of facing such a hostile world. Yet she is also his salvation, as with the very last thing he says to her, he faces the risk of suffering everything that he fears, for no possible reward but her own comfort.

For me, this film's pondering tempo led to an overlong running-time and, dare I say it, a lead character with whom I just couldn't connect. (!) However I found Ricardo Darin's tortured performance utterly believable, and an uneasy reminder that in this sometimes Godawful life, you just have to take the bad things with the good, or inside you curl up and die.



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