Friday, February 28, 2014

Call to a Call Girl: "El Sombrero" a Somber Meditation on Love

"EL SOMBRERO" (2013)
Length - 18:06
Company: HAIKU.films
Website:  Official

I'd like to state here that I unfortunately am not certain of the names of the actor and actress performing in this short film.  As soon as I find out who they are, I will give them the appropriate credit here -- they most certainly deserve it.

Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires . . .

A heartbroken middle aged man in the depths of a prolonged midlife crisis hires a beautiful call girl in an attempt to feel something, anything, even if it's just for a little while.

To his surprise, his younger companion relates to his dilemma more than he would have thought.

A lot more, as it turns out.


Showing physical affection onscreen isn't easy in the best of times, but when you're trying to do that in the arena of the short film, on a limited budget, with semi-professional or completely amateur talent, it becomes nearly impossible to capture something that feels real.

This is made doubly so when your film has sexual content.  It's tough to present sex in a mature way, without accidentally tumbling into the realm of the pornographic -- showing nudity for nudity's sake, rather than because the story dictates it should be there.

Somehow, writer/director Santiago Mourino has accomplished that very thing.  He presents a mature story for adults in a real way.  The plot unfolds at a pleasant click, even though the location is limited to a hotel room. 

Visually, "El Sombrero" is gorgeous.  There's no sense of claustrophobia despite being shot for the most part in a bedroom.  There is nudity and a sex scene, but it is done in a mostly tasteful way -- if this were rated, it'd be an "R", no question about it, but nothing overtly explicit is shown. 


Our two characters play off each other well, discussing childhood, love and the difference between real, eternal love, and the temporary love of immaturity.  Thematically, it's these scenes that elevate the film over most other so called "erotic" fare.  The middle aged man is numb, and as it turns out, the call girl is, too. When asked about whether she likes her job, she replies simply that, well, she doesn't hate it.

She, in other words, is trying to feel something too, but what that something is, neither can quite put their finger on.  They've both been in love, both felt it, but still, something's missing.

"El Sombrero" is about isolation, and the little things we do to try to feel alive.  While it might appear to be about sex on the surface, it literally IS about how we skim the surface of living to feel alive. 

The acting is excellent -- subtitles are used, but the delivery of their lines sound natural and not stilted.  The dialogue is written well and nothing comes off as improbable. 

Normally, I don't like films with conclusions like the one presented here, but that's usually because in most short films it's random and feels tacked on because the writers didn't know what to do next.

Thankfully, in "El Sombrero", nothing feels forced and every line of dialogue fits together like a puzzle.


Writing: 3 / 5.  Maurino finds a way to present his theme in a natural and unforced way.  Beyond the dialogue, there's not a whole lot going on, which does take away from the film as a whole -- it's small and intimate, I get that, but this is REALLY bare bones. 
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  Somehow, even in such a small space to film, Maurino makes the story visually appealing.  Again, without much going on, he's stuck trying to find different ways to film the same two people talking.
Editing: 3 / 5.  The transitions are slick and the story moves at a good click, but showing our female lead dancing and massaging her customer took more time than was necessary.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  The soundtrack was decent, but didn't really bring any unique moods to the surface.  It did what it had to do.
Acting: 4 / 5.  The two leads were credible, and more than that, they waxed poetic on some pretty deep themes while still sounding like real human beings.  Part of that is the writing, but huge congratulations to the leads for delivering lifelike characters.

Final Grade: 3.3 / 5.

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

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