Critics' Pick

Nobody's Watching (NR)

Drama 90 min. September 8, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
Julia Solomonoff's third feature finds the accomplished Argentine director in a naturalistic year-in-the-life mode, examining the somewhat aimless expatriate life of a Buenos Aires soap opera hunk in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As in her 2009 film, The Last Summer of La Boyita, Solomonoff exhibits a scrupulous control of her material and milieu that's too rare in episodic, humanistic indie-movie life studies. There's nothing fussy about any shot of Nobody's Watching, but there's also no shot wasted, and no shot that doesn't communicate something vital about the city or her protagonist, the blond and heartbroke Nico (Guillermo Pfenig.) For Nico and Solomonoff, the city is all streets and staircases and cramped audition spaces where Nico, who can pass as an American white boy until he speaks, mostly goes unnoticed. New York isn't where he finds himself; it's where his selfhood gets dissolved. Nico takes babysitting jobs and wanders the city, shoplifting and auditioning, all as Solomonoff teases out the hurt in his backstory. Up north, Nico, who is gay, feels more free to be open about his sexuality, but that man he loves, of course, is back home, married with kids.

Solomonoff has crafted an arresting tale of privilege and displacement, of the ironies of navigating American society as an outsider, of what newcomers expect of New York and what it actually offers. Nico performs the role of the busy New Yorker, when in actuality he often has nothing to do but sulk by the waterfront; Pfenig, who is almost always onscreen, reveals to us through grimaces and pained eyes the toll of Nico's performance, but also the stubbornness, disbelief and disappointment.
Julia Solomonoff Nadja Settel, Pascal Yen-Pfister, Rafael Ferro, Paola Baldion, Paige Sciarrino Christina Lazaridi, Julia Solomonoff FiGa Films

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