The Blonde One ****
Starring: Gaston Re, Alfonso Barón, Malena Irusta, Ailín Salas
Director: Marco Berger
Argentinean director Marco Berger is beginning to make quite the name for himself. Taekwondo was my surprise hit of 2017, because what looked like a sausage-fest actually contained a lot of heart. Similarly, The Blonde One sounds on paper like a fairly generic gay romance, but it’s actually a lot more than that.
Gabriel (Re) moves into the spare room of his friend and colleague Juan (Barón). Although he regularly sees girls coming out of Juan’s room, Gabriel begins to sense a sexual tension between them and eventually overcomes his shyness to kiss his charismatic friend. As their sexual encounters become more and more frequent the question arises over the nature of their relationship. Are they boyfriends? And what does that mean for the rest of their lives?
As the film progresses the issue of identity rears its head. For Juan to have sex with a man is one thing, but for him to identify as gay is something else entirely. How others perceive him is incredibly important to him and as a result, normalcy becomes the Holy Grail for them both; any kind of routine or anything that resembles the life of a couple, but kept firmly behind closed doors. A kiss for a greeting. Waking up together. The whole thing is jeopardised because Gabriel identifies as gay, but Juan is a man who has sex with men. Which is obviously a cause of conflict between them both.
This isn’t a showy film, however. Long sequences are dialogue free, with looks laden with frustration saying far more than any words they utter. We spend much time simply observing as they lie naked in bed together or watch TV or smoke on the roof. With unabashedly lingering shots, moments of normalcy are imbued with great significance as we look for clues in their faces of what they’re not saying to one another. Gabriel’s reserved watchfulness seems at first to signify a withdrawn timidity, but it becomes increasingly clear that he is much wiser than his years. With a young daughter (Irusta) – who is the most emotionally stable character in the film – and tragedy in his past, his priority is happiness. And obviously, this is in direct opposition to Juan’s outlook on life, love and himself.
There are times when the film suffers a little from Inactivity Syndrome, but there is so much tension (both sexual and dramatic) between the pair that you can forgive it sometimes dragging its feet. You’ll find yourself really wanting the pair to overcome their differences to be together, but asking whether Gabriel should ever compromise on his search for true happiness.
OUT ON DVD AND ON DEMAND ON 11TH NOVEMBER 2019, RELEASED BY TLA RELEASING.