Oh, the one-shot film! While it hasn’t been a novel approach for quite some time, it still serves as a brilliant marketing opportunity. Far too often, though, the technical accomplishment of pulling off such an intensely demanding style that requires intense preparation and rehearsal masks what is otherwise a lackluster work. Losing the power of montage and vastly diminishing the role of editing, films that choose to go the single-take route rely so intently on performances that the finished product can buckle under the weight of the pressure put on the actors. How delightful it is, then, that Rendez-vous, written and directed by Pablo Olmos Arrayales, is a resounding success that features captivating acting and relentless energy.
It’s imperative that audiences go into the film as blind as humanly possible (consider yourself warned if you read on), as there are multiple points when Arrayales completely upends expectations, prompting the audience to disregard all notions initially formed as to the type of film they are watching. It opens in the vein of a Richard Linklater meet-cute as Lili (a wonderful Helena Puig), a young woman living in Mexico City, is waiting for the arrival of her date, Eduardo (an equally striking Antonio Alcantara). They met on an online dating site, and even though he was late (due to a mugging; the first of many such references to crime in Mexico City), their date goes off without a hitch, and the couple subsequently makes their way back to Eduardo’s apartment.
“…their date goes off without a hitch, and the couple subsequently makes their way back to Eduardo’s apartment.”
It is possible that viewers might not relish the direction in which Arrayales chooses to go with the story at this point. It is quite jarring, especially as viewers will appreciate the playful repartee that the two leads had been sharing in the early portion of their evening together. As actors, Puig and Alcantara seem to be more at home in the mode of indie romance, delivering natural performances we can all relate to. When Lili and Eduardo are in this element, Rendez-vous cruises along at a brisk pace, proving that Arrayales is a filmmaker attuned to the nuances of human interaction and one well-equipped to further his career as an artist. That’s not to say the director completely loses his way when expectations are shattered – we simply get a new source of tension.
There’s not much to fault Rendez-vous for, but seasoned viewers might rightly decide that Arrayales is guilty of being overzealous with his bold narrative choices and the one-take structure. Due to his proclivity for shifting the expectations, one wouldn’t be mistaken for assuming his writing is disorientating at best and schizophrenic at worst. Still, he manages to effectively execute every portion of the film with aplomb. Still, it’s easy to argue that with a bit of restraint, this would have been an even more enjoyable experience had he devoted his considerable energies more intently on delivering a more singular tone. All that said, the film is still that rare gem that effectively marries technical showmanship and dramatic chops for an all-around satisfying experience.
"…that rare gem that effectively marries technical showmanship and dramatic chops..."