Title: Plan B
Director and Writer: Marco Berger
Distributer: Wolfe Video
Buy Link Amazon Buy/Watch Link
Country of Origin/Language: Argentina/Spanish (English Subtitles)
Rating: NR (easily could be PG-13; no nudity or sex, tame kissing only)
Length: 103 minutes
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: If you have patience and can deal with a GFY plot, Plan B is a wonderful film about the possibilities and complexities of human sexuality.
Argentine director Marco Berger repurposes the conventions of a Shakespeare-styled comedy in his clever, witty and poetic feature film debut. Bruno is dumped by his girlfriend; behind a calm, indifferent expression, his mind plans a cold, sweet vengeance. He befriends her new boyfriend Pablo, with the idea of eroding the couple, either by introducing Pablo to another woman or by seducing him himself. Thus emerges Plan B, a perilous romantic journey that calls his own sexuality into question.
Plan B is the charming, independently-produced, small-budget movie from first-time Argentinean director Marco Berger, one that made its way around the indie circuit in 2009. I have picked up watching gay-themed films again (I went through a phase last summer doing the same) and once again I was immensely disappointed in the majority of the offerings — especially the American ones. Filmed in and around Buenos Aires, it is thankfully most things much of gay cinema is not. Barely-decent to horrible acting, bad direction and film quality, gratuitous nudity, stupid and predictable plots, tragic or melancholic endings fill the Netflix and Amazon catalogs, but I walked away from Plan B feeling…happy and hopeful. It is not a comedy or a creepy stalker-film, as some of the blurbs lead you to believe, but a subtle, multi-dimensional GFY romantic drama with themes of jealousy, trust, lies, self-discovery and the complexity of human sexuality.
This movie isn’t going to be for everyone; in fact, there are folks who have really disliked it. The most relevant word that I can use in relation to this film is “patience.” Patience to sit through seemingly never-ending, near-silent, still scenes (more on this later); patience to see it through to the end, where the last five minutes are worth the entire film (and makes you see the entire thing in a different light); patience to sit through a been-there-done-that telling of romantic jealousy and deceit (albeit a fresh take); patience (and ability) to see the possibility of two seemingly straight men fall for each other despite everything.
A few other notes: I would also say that for this film to work, you must believe that sexuality is casual and perhaps fluid, and that love truly can be love, no matter the gender of the other person. Additionally, while these two attend a gimnasio, you will not find buff, toned gym-rats with manscaped bodies here, just normal guys with normal, natural bodies, and while a little on the scruffy side, absolutely beautiful for what they are. Related to this, there is no nudity or sex. Lastly, you have to be able to deal with subtitles (unless you are fluent in Spanish, specifically the Rioplatense dialect spoken in BA). If you do not have patience or an open mind about GFY story lines, need hairless, perfectly-groomed musclemen hitting the sack every other scene or hate subtitles, pass this one up. If you are okay with everything I just said, you are in for a treat in this little gem.
The film opens with Bruno in the park playing with some kittens. A woman walks past, then meets up with and kisses a man holding a camera. The woman is Laura, Bruno’s ex, and the man is her new novio, Pablo. (note that unlike the blurb tells us, Bruno is the one who broke it off, not the other way around.) Bruno looks on in apparent unhappy interest as they lovingly interact. Though Laura still sees Bruno for some on-the-side smexxin, she has informed him that she will never get back with him, which was his plan. He doesn’t believe her, and in his jealously, he has decided that he must break up the new couple with a new plan: get Pablo interested in someone else so he can get Laura back. After hearing from a mutual friend that Pablo once slept with another guy, Bruno decides that the “someone else” should be him — even though he is straight. He sets off to seduce Pablo, initially bonding over a common interest and then truly befriending the other man with confusing results for all parties.
Superior and natural acting is one of the shining points of this film. I thought leads Lucas Ferraro and Manuel Vignau were perfect for the roles of Pablo and Bruno. While Ferraro has acting chops going back some years, this is the first starring role for Vignau, and I was impressed with them both (note that they were also in the short by the same director, Una Última Voluntad). I totally believed these two in their growing friendship and non-sexual intimacy, and their building sexual chemistry felt real to me. While there is dialog, in some ways my belief is that Plan B could have worked as a silent film as Ferraro and Vignau were able to convey so much emotion via their expressions in long moments of silence. There are scenes of either — or both — standing, sitting or laying down where you know exactly what is going through their minds. Their emotions were so honest and palpable, and it was a delight to watch them. Some of the best of these scenes involved a conflicted Pablo fighting tears later on as he tries to work out what is happening to him and come to terms with not only his feelings, but what Bruno has done. I also enjoyed two adjacent scenes, one where Pablo is sitting outside on his roof-top apartment having a snack while a small, secret smile comes over his face that you just know what it’s about, then in the next, he is awake in bed with a sleeping Laura and he is wearing a pensive scowl, definitely showing the difference and changes in his emotions. Bruno grew on me as the film wore on, his deceptive beginnings changing into real and confusing emotions made his character okay for me. This is definitely a case of be careful of what you wish for. And I loved some of their conversations, surprisingly initiated mostly by Bruno, who in my opinion is the less…deep of the two — what toy would you be and why and a delightful humorous commentary on Peter Pan were standouts. I rooted for them and eagerly awaited to see what would happen.
The small cast is rounded out by Laura (the girl in the middle), a few friends — Victor, Veronica and Ana — and what seems to be Bruno’s landlady, who has a funny little moment of eavesdropping. And despite the fact that the two leads are both boinking Laura, there is no m/f on-screen smexxin, just a little kissing and after-the-fact talk (and as I said above, no smexxin at all between our heroes, which worked fine for me here).
The main criticism that I have seen has been around the director’s choice of incorporating long, drawn-out scenes of seeming nothingness — architecture, urbanscapes, the shore, even our heroes in the midst of doing not a whole hecka lot, like sleeping (in their undies), thinking or sneaking glances at each other — and in relative silence. There are many reviewers who felt that this caused the plot to crawl at an incredibly slow, even glacial pace and was boring. Not me. Could Berger have gone without these scenes altogether? Probably, but it would have been a different film. While I think there could have been a little better editing and removal of a few of these silent scenes, I felt overall they worked very well in conveying the subtle and slow growth of our heroes’ friendship and the angst associated with their conflicted emotions.
Related to this, and considering the plot and the potential for heavy melodrama, I found the film surprisingly quiet and reflective, with no explosive scenes. The places where you would expect outbursts just don’t happen. Each character takes the information as it is given to them with at times an emotional response, but it is always calm and quiet acceptance with reflection and internal angst instead of making a giant scene. There is also a patience (there’s that word again!) in the interaction of the characters that goes along with the pace of the film as well as the quiet nature of it. They just wait…wait until the other person completes their thoughts with no interruption before responding. How civilized.
I admit that I know very little about Argentinean culture, but I did a little research. I won’t list all of the great stuff about this country and LGBT issues specifically, but I will say that it is extremely liberal about many things, including homosexuality. From the fact that no one seems upset that Laura is double-dipping, as it were, to the offer of a sleepover to anyone of either gender that often ends up in the same platonic bed, to the attitudes toward same-sex options, there is a certain casualness about everything in the film, and from what I have read, I can only assume it is a statement on the culture. Overall it was refreshing. Regarding the last, though the term “puto” (“fag/faggot”) is tossed around pretty freely, I didn’t feel it was terribly offensive, more like teasing almost. Everyone who mentions homosexuality — from the three in the triangle to friends and acquaintances — talks about it as a fairly normal possibility, that it is just another way to go. And while the situation is definitely confusing for both men, I never got the feeling that either was completely against the idea in general, and multiple viewings made it clear to me that while they are straight-identifying, at least Pablo is not a Kinsey 0.
This film isn’t perfect, and there are several things I would have liked to have seen different or expanded upon. First, the character of Laura, Pablo’s girlfriend and Bruno’s ex was not explored enough for my tastes. She felt one-dimensional to me, and I would have liked to have seen more about why these men both wanted her as well as her easy acceptance when they break it off with her. Or, I even think this film could have made it without her, the plot carrying on as two men who meet at the gym with the same results.
Additionally, I would have liked a little more depth into our heroes, more information about their lives overall. I had trouble getting past the fact that neither had anything to do besides go to the gym, party and hang out. Did they not work? Go to school? We are led to believe that Pablo is a photographer, but it seems more like a hobby than a profession. At one point Bruno talks about a TV commercial casting (which we assume is a ruse anyway), so maybe he is an actor, but it is never mentioned again. This information would have added a richness to the film that I thought was lacking just a bit.
Lastly, I am not sure I fully understood Bruno and his whole idea of Plan B, especially given that he is the one who left Laura in the first place. I guess it is a case of seller’s remorse, but to me, the explanation seemed thin. Despite this niggle, I totally bought the rest of the plot and for me, I easily moved beyond the initial motivation and enjoyed the rest. A lot.
If you can stick through the long, silent scenes and can deal with a GFY plot, Plan B is a wonderful film about the possibilities and complexities of human sexuality.