Mora Arenillas and the invisible loneliness of Buenos Aires

 

A lonely teenager in a middle-class neighborhood of Buenos Aires learns she is pregnant with her lover’s child. This is the story of Invisible, one of the three Argentine films at the Venice International Film Festival. It’s a life changing situation that will rule, in an understated manner, the otherwise uneventful days of Ely, or Eloísa, played by Mora Arenillas, who embodies her character so genuinely that, at times, you feel you following any girl anywhere as she goes about her routines in real life.

She lives with her depressive mother (Mara Bestelli) in a cramped apartment, in one those buildings that went up in the late 1960s, early 1970s, blighting the cityscape of the Argentine capital with their drab utilitarianism.

Add the endless struggles of the Argentine middle class to make ends meet. Unsurprisingly, she finds in casual sex the only solace in a dull existence, part of which she spends at the veterinarian clinic where she helps the genial owner. Not only money ties her to the job. She is sleeping with her boss’s son, who is a married father.

While the story is powerful in unpretentious ways the audience may be left yearning for some solace. There are surely good things happening to Ely. A sunny day, a passionate kiss, a smile. Indeed, there is not a single smile in the entire movie. Buenos Aires can be a hostile place but it is also a vibrant city of gregarious people who rejoice in good conversation and company. Or maybe it is that this current generation of teenagers, glued to their mobile phones, have indeed taken to talking in monosyllables and sentences that rarely exceed five words.

Invisible will invite comparisons to Juno and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, two previous dramas on teenage pregnancy and abortion. Yet these movies —American and Romanian, respectively— present their characters in a larger, more nuanced context, with a more convincing plot and storytelling.

In a Q & A session following the feature presentation, director Pablo Giorgelli said the movie was autobiographical. The apartment Ely shares with her mother in the film is just across from the one where Giorgelli grew up and where her mother still lives. Somewhat tautologically, he said he called the movie Invisible to refer to his own tacit presence in it, as the eye directing the plot.

For her part, Arenillas said the story was not only about her, but it was her. “I’m the film,” she said. “It’s what’s happening to me, how I live and how I deal with my loneliness.” It took this correspondent a minute or two to be sure that the radiant young woman in a splendid fuchsia gown was the same unappealing teenager on the big screen. In real life, Arenillas has a magnetic presence, with a stellar aura about her and a painfully beautiful smile. Future roles should make the most of it.