Friday, February 15, 2013

REVIEW: Sidewalls (2011)

People are really just like pinballs bouncing off one another in an aimless digital age, and what is there really to serve as a point to it all besides what we make for ourselves? Everything is digitized, everyone is trapped between walls and nobody has a clue what they are doing with their lives day to day, let alone in the bigger picture. What is there to it all? What are we but bags of flesh drifting through silicon and rust-carved cities doing jobs robotically and losing our souls day by day? Where is the light?

Well, I don’t know. But I do know that this is a great piece of cinema, which tackles a few of those questions.

Director: Gustavo Taretto
Starring: Javier Drolas, Pilar López de Ayala

Sidewalls is a Spanish film about a guy, Martin (Javier Drolas) and a girl, Mariana (Pilar López de Ayala) who live next to one another and lead strikingly similar, dissonant and disappointing lives. And they’re basically perfect for one another! But they’ve never met, and in the big city what chance is there of that, anyway?

This is just a magnetizing film, and I was hooked from the start. Everything in this movie is whitewashed and grey, and the cityscape is vast and mechanical. The two main characters are often pictured from far away in big crowds, or among other people. Everyone in this movie seems terribly alone. We see them both try to connect with people and go on dates and we see them fail, simply because people so rarely ever do anything else in the grand scheme of things. Sadness is normal, happiness fleeting – as it should be, lest we forget the worth of happiness. Sidewalls portrays these themes by showing us a series of vignettes about Martin and Mariana just trying to get by in every day life, to find connections.

There’s a lighthearted grace to this movie, mostly in the wry narrations, that makes it a real pleasure to watch – these are some of the best narrations I’ve seen for a movie in a long time. I love the little things in this movie like Mariana’s obsession with Where’s Waldo books – you will believe that she can make Where’s Waldo into something poetic and profound. There are tons of these moments in Sidewalls; these little moments, visually and writing-wise, that stun and warm the heart, and it would be a disservice of me to list them here when you can go discover them for yourself.

Sidewalls is just a great romance film, as well as a great commentary on our digital age and the ramifications it’s had on socialization and romance. It’s a masterwork of directing, with a ton going on visually in addition to the great script. Despite its disparate setting and drab colors, there is never a dull moment on screen and everything seems vital and life-affirming. This is very much a movie of progress and change, as it starts out pretty bleak, but by the end it shines with newfound life. The two actors are both excellent and portray their characters so well they might as well be second skins, and the script is so good it’s chilling – a masterpiece of connecting human being to fellow human being. I felt in tune with the human spirit after watching this, and that’s as high a compliment as I can give.

This movie is on Netflix, so you really have no excuse to go watch it right away. Fans of Lost in Translation and similarly down-to-Earth love stories will eat this up, but really this is just an essential film for anyone who wants to see something beautiful and affecting about people who’ve lost their ways finding them again. People are lost all the time, and maybe life doesn’t have any meaning at all, but anyone who can make a film like this is close to tunneling a light through the darkness. Magisterial and powerful, yet also sensitive and entertaining.

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