I’ll be honest — I initially wanted to see Not Quite Adults (aka Tampoco tan grandes) because it is as a road trip movie to Bariloche, Argentina. I was recently in Bariloche, which has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world — mountains, glaciers, lakes — the place is just astounding. I wanted to see what the filmmakers would highlight.
So as not to give any spoilers away, I won’t answer the question of what, if any of Bariloche is highlighted. After all, that is the supposed destination in the film. What I will say is that I was wrong about the real attraction of the film. The real standouts are the characters and writing; each wonders as vast, complex, and mysterious as the terrain on which they travel.
One of the alluring things about a road trip movie is that it has part of the hero’s journey baked in. People are leaving the place where they’re from, going on an adventure to see the world in a new way, and growing in the process. Close quarters, obstacles, and lots of interaction are built right in. So in a sense, some of the shenanigans that happen in a typical movie plot to create drama and get people to interact with are dispensed with — you can simply concentrate on character. And there can be a road trip movie to suit anyone’s taste, from action drama (Mad Max: Fury Road) to action-romantic comedy (Smokey and the Bandit), to coming of old age drama (Nebraska). Not Quite Adults falls more in the Little Miss Sunshine realm of diverse characters crammed in a van comedy.
“Together, the four head out to Bariloche to see the land Rita has just inherited…”
At the core of Not Quite Adults is Lola, a 30-year-old woman who finds out her father, who she thought was long dead, has only recently died and left her an inheritance. She’s having trouble with her fiancee and wrecks her car, so she recruits her ex-boyfriend Teo to drive her to Mar del Plata to meet a lawyer. He brings along his sister Rita, who he’s helping take care of because she has a medical condition. Once they arrive, the gang meet Natalio, Rita’s father’s partner. Together, the four head out to Bariloche to see the land Rita has just inherited. It turns out everyone involved has some sort of personal problem they are dealing with, and in due course, these problems surface in some way or another. As they make their way through Argentina, they are forced to confront long-simmering issues about themselves.
The heart and soul of Not Quite Adults is the character Lola, brought to life in an outstanding performance by Paula Reca. She’s alternately charming, mischievous, dangerous, and beguiling, sometimes all in the same scene. She has a penchant for shoplifting, getting caught, and then trying to deny it despite all evidence to the contrary. She’s so beautiful it seems hard not to fall for her. In time, though, you come to understand the exasperation dominating the visage of her ex-boyfriend Teo (Andres Ciavaglia).
And just when you think she’s been immature or manipulative one too many times, she melts your heart with an extraordinary singing performance (performed by Reca herself) at a bar. She’s a roller coaster, and it is thrilling to be along for the ride. Though the performance is in Spanish, Reca does speak perfect English, so I dearly hope she’ll be getting calls from Hollywood after this breakout performance.
“The script is tight and funny, the characters are well developed, and just about every setup pays off…”
Another standout feature of Not Quite Adults is its exceptional writing. The script is tight and funny, the characters are well developed, and just about every setup pays off in a meaningful way. There’s also well-placed symbolism throughout, though it used in either a subtle enough way that you don’t notice it at first (e.g., characters start acting like children at an amusement park, start fighting while bumping up against each other in bumper cars), or pointed out so strongly as to be an intentional laugh line (the recurring theme of volcanoes being brought up in reference to Lola).
Ashes are a recurring theme too, whether they are the remnants of the newly deceased or the after-effects of a volcano. The main writer on the project is Maximo Reca, brother of Paula, who plays Lola. That’s quite a talented family, and they sure do know how to play off each others’ strengths.
Maybe the easiest comparison to Not Quite Adults is another funny road trip movie with well-developed characters and an amusement park climax — Zombieland. There are no zombies in Not Quite Adults, but there are enough personal demons to provide conflict aplenty. Not Quite Adults is a much lower budget affair, but you never really feel it, except maybe in not quite getting to see as much of the beautiful Argentinian countryside as you might like. Still, the film more than makes up for this in its many surprises, great acting, and fun characters.
Not Quite Adults (Tampoco tan grandes) (2019) Directed by Federico Sosa. Written by Maximo Reca. Starring Paula Reco, Miguel Ángel Solá, Andres Ciavaglia, Chang Sung Kim. Not Quite Adults screened at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.