Some may call this movie mesmerizing, ponderous, or even beautiful in its simplicity – I call it boring as Hell and a test of my patience. I admit I have the attention span of a gnat, and most things “artsy fartsy” are lost on me, but this movie goes overboard trying to highlight life’s “quieter moments.” It’s true that life has a lot of down time. It’s those spans in between the “action” where you are forced to do nothing; where you’re left with little else but your own thoughts. This movie manages to accurately capture those moments, but unfortunately it cut out everything else – the plot, the action… and for me, any sort of interest.
“Where Are Their Stories?” is the dual story of a young man, Vicente, trying to save his grandmother’s house from being sold by her greedy sons, and his mother, trying to earn money as a housekeeper for a wealthy couple in the big city. The film begins with Vicente dutifully caring for his ill grandmother. When his uncles arrive expecting to see their mother on her deathbed, and hoping to sell the house and land, Vicente does all he can to prevent the sale from going forward. Looking for help in the city, we are introduced to his mother and get a glimpse of what lengths she will go through to earn money. When her employers, who are unable to conceive a child on their own, ask her to carry a child for them, she must make a difficult decision and live with whatever consequences that follow. Both of these situations warrant a generous allotment of time and reflection, but the lengthy scenes in this film go above and beyond what is necessary.
For example, one scene consisted of a man walking up a flight of stairs and going through a door. After he passes through, we are treated to a whopping minute and a half (yes, I timed it) shot of the closed door. That’s it. I was forced to stare at a f*****g door for a minute and half. Many of the other seemingly endless scenes consisted of Vicente silently walking, sitting, eating, or waiting. If the boy would just talk a little more often at least I could learn a bit of Spanish along the way, but instead all I could do was watch him fail to interact with the world around him. This story may as well have been a series of still shots because so much of the story has to be inferred and it fails to capture any of life’s dynamics. I was holding my breath for 72 minutes waiting for something to happen.
All of that aside, just because it’s not my cuppa tea doesn’t mean others won’t find it interesting. Being a typical American, I expect my movies to move at a certain pace and to spoon feed me every detail as it holds my hand and guides me through the story. This film does no such thing. The plot twists and witty banter that I’m used to are missing, but they’re replaced by an emptiness which is closer to what we experience in our everyday lives. The sloth-like pace doesn’t translate well for someone like me who is rooted in a time-strapped culture, but, I think, is an accurate representation of how a lot of the world still operates. I didn’t enjoy this film, but there’s a decent chance I’m just not cultured enough to appreciate something like this.
“Where Are Their Stories?” offered an ample opportunity to lose oneself in the world of the characters, but by the end of this film, I felt like I was losing grip on my own sanity. I, like many people, watch movies and read books because my life is boring and I need an escape from reality. This movie had me retreating back to my own life to get away from this inane story.