While the last post detailed the more memorable roles of Mr Mortensen’s career, this review looks to the most recent, Everybody Has a Plan (2012, dir. Ana Piterbarg) a film he not only produced but also took, along with its director, to the recent 56th BFI London Film Festival. As previously stated he has starred in Spanish-speaking films before, more recently, playing the titular character of Captain Alatriste (2006, dir. Agustín Díaz Yanes) a historical epic which further showcased Mortensen’s skills with a blade, acting prowess in another language and an impressive ability to grow a moustache of heroic proportion. Everybody Has a Plan is, in comparison, a radically different film.
Set in the present, in Argentina, identical twin brothers Agustín and Pedro Souto (Mortensen) are siblings who have taken two very different paths in life. Agustín is a married Paediatric doctor in Buenos Aires while Pedro lives on the Tigre Delta alternating between a life of crime and breeding bees for the purpose of making honey. When one of Pedro’s crime outings takes a sinister turn, he turns up, terminally ill, on his brother’s doorstep. His presence thereby allows unfulfilled Agustín the opportunity to make some changes and seek refuge in the home town he escaped decades earlier. He inhabits his brother’s persona, leaving his wife and existing responsibilities behind.
This surprising noir is the first for screenwriter-director Piterbarg and she approached her first choice actor Mortensen at a San Lorenzo football match. Mortensen’s early childhood in South America meant that he, not only, has an affiliation with the country but also the linguistic foundation to speak the Argentine-Spanish which is prevalent in the movie. At no point does this film read as a directorial debut and Piterbarg should be commended for the taut screenplay and, at times, gently gripping crime drama she has created. It is traditional in its narrative approach and does not rely upon action sequences but turgid twists and tender turns amid its character driven plot and recurring thematic of duality. This motif is linked quite obviously through the inclusion of twins, however, it is made more apparent when considering the locations used, especially the light/dark dichotomy captured so beautifully through Lucio Bonelli’s cinematography. The Tigre Delta is shot as a dangerous, foreboding and enigmatic place (not unlike the twin who inhabits the island) and it is not an image of Argentina that is ordinarily known or as been seen before.
At his recent Screen Talk, Mortensen likened the stark contrast between locations and characters as “two streams of merging water, running together to the open river with the same force and flow” and quoted a 1946 film noir in an attempt to encapsulate the romantic element in the narrative. He referred to The Night Editor (Henry Levin) in which one protagonist says to the other “You’re like me. There is an illness deep inside you that has to hurt or be hurt. We’re made for each other”. This aptly sums up the inevitability of kismet which hangs over Agustín who shares the screen with an excellent supporting cast that fleshes out the slow pacing including Rosa (Sofia Gala), Rubén (Javier Godino) and Adrían (Daniel Fanego). Fanego practically slithers on screen he is so reptilian. This is, nevertheless, Mortensen’s film.
It should seem somewhat moot to describe a man, who has had a film career run nearly three decades, as innovative but his last four films have made audiences aware just how multi-faceted he can be. Here, although they do not share the screen together for very long, he actually manages to suggest a real sense of individualism between Pedro and Agustín and, throughout, a manner of acting that relies upon physicality rather than the spoken word; few actors can emote so strongly and evidently. That said, this movie is not without its flaws; it is, at times a little too slow paced and the latter third does drag amid its solemnity and quiet but it is a thoughtful deliberation about a man who inadequately exists and attempts to find peace while having no absolute design on thriving. He does, however, as it turns out have a plan after all…