Close Quarters Image

Close Quarters

By Alex Saveliev | January 25, 2020

Clariond expertly dissects and indicts the notion of masculinity that’s deeply engrained into his country’s citizens. Manuel is a victim of his own mistakes, but also of the establishment that predisposed him to make said mistakes. The harder Manuel tries to use his status to regain control, the less it affects Ruben, who casually overtakes his life with nary a penny in his pocket. Manuel is the instigator, he’s too much of a coward to face what he’s done, and when it’s too late, he has no idea of how to go about it. The titular “close quarters” refer to their apartment, but also to the society’s confining ideology that separates men into “Manuels” and “Rubens.”

The actors are fantastic. Jorge A. Jimenez perfectly embodies the toxic male ego. He is all charm and gentility masquerading a deeply-manipulative, avaricious core. Gaitan has arguably the most challenging role. She has to make the audience go along with her betrayal, ensuring that she is also seen as a victim of her environment. She pulls it off in a beautifully-calibrated, delicate, sublime performance. Pescina’s a revelation; watching his character’s deterioration is something to behold. As a side note, I found his resemblance to Danny Pudi uncanny, especially considering Close Quarters brings to mind the decidedly more comedic Babysplitters, in which Pudi starred.

“…a beautifully-calibrated, delicate, sublime performance…”

This film will stick with you. Clariond directs memorable sequences with style and confidence. I love the moment where Ruben casually takes off the couple’s framed wedding photo from the wall and replaces it with a dartboard. “It’s not staying like that,” Lupe scolds. There’s a perfectly-staged, heated confrontation in the men’s locker room and an even more heated fight towards the end of the film. The filmmaker ensures to sprinkle some humor into the grim proceedings. One scene involving an erection is especially bound to provoke some smiles.

Close Quarters is prone to melodrama, so some viewers may find it a tad overwrought and hard to swallow, especially in the film’s second half. For the most part, Clariond skillfully subverts our expectations. Those that are willing to overlook the forced sentiments are in for a memorable, intelligent, and, at times mesmerizing cinematic experience. Don’t let the subtitles stop you from discovering this gem.

Close Quarters screened at the Slamdance 2020 Film Festival.

Close Quarters (2020)

Directed and Written: Andres Clariond

Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Jose Pescina, Jorge A. Jimenez, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Close Quarters Image

"…a deconstruction of male toxicity, a fervently erotic thriller and an indictment of a regime..."

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