Matrimonio: In Argentina, Aging Resignedly, If Not Gracefully

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Hollywood filmmakers have made weddings the ultimate goal in romances for so long it almost feels cliché to note the cliché. But weddings only signal the start of something often far too complex and intimidating for most filmmakers to explore.

Argentine director Carlos Jaureguialzo offers a fine take on the challenge with Matrimonio (Marriage), which will have its world premiere at the Miami International Film Festival this Sunday. By focusing on a day in the life of one weary couple he and screenwriter Marcela Silva y Nasute reveal a sometimes grim, often humorous, and ultimately affirming observation of aged love.

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Esteban (Darío Grandinetti) and Molly (Cecilia Roth) have been married for over 20 years, and they clearly seem worn out. The film opens with a montage covering the detritus of this couple's Buenos Aires apartment and, by extension, their life together. Everything is shown in super close-up: details of photos in picture frames, the water-stains on the edges of drying glasses in the kitchen, the top of a perfume bottle and the face of Esteban, staring up at the ceiling, waiting to get up in the morning to face the day.

After showering and leaving a cup of tea on a nightstand by a lump of sheets that Molly has yet to rise from, he tells his wife, "I'm leaving." Though this is the start of just another day, his tired tone of voice sounds loaded with something much deeper.

Inspired by James Joyce's Ulysses, director Jaureguialzo (his second feature in just over 10 years) presents the day following the point of view of Esteban and then again through Molly's eyes, who only rises from bed once her husband is long gone. Diving into dramatic irony, some interesting, if at times heavy-handed, coincidences in their lives occur that seem to subvert their mutually tired feelings for each other.

Forgiving the movie a few too many precious moments of happenstance, Matrimonio maintains a brisk pace featuring a couple of Spanish cinema's wizened delights of acting. Grandinetti and Roth are probably best known for appearances in a pair of films by Pedro Almodóvar (he in Talk To Her, she in All About My Mother). Both bring a charming humility to their roles that only comes with age.

With respect to Esteban and Molly's wedded malaise, no one side stands out as someone for the audience to root for above the other. Any faults in the marriage seem equally attributable to the sometimes stereotypical shortcomings of the other's gender. The two leads bring the pathos to raise the material beyond caricature, however. The cloud of time has done a profound number on how these two perceive one another, and the film captures that well. Outsiders shrug off grumbles of seemingly crippling issues by either husband or wife during confessional scenes as petty nonsense.

Argentine cinema made its mark on the new millennium with often bleak and cynical films that also played with dark humor. But Matrimonio offers something more complex and less of a cop-out that pays tremendous respect to living life. The film ends on a note not so much filled with hope but a comfortable resignation that in order to act as a unit, members of a couple should be able to respect and recognize the individuals involved.

Matrimonio screens twice during the Miami International Film Festival: Sunday, March 3, at 6:45 p.m. at the Regal South Beach Cinemas, and Tuesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. at the Tower Theater. Visit miamifilmfestival.com for tickets.

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.

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