Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hola Mexico ’10: Love on a WKND

Nothing brings out nationalism like sports and politics. On a fateful weekend before Mexico’s divisive 2006 national election, their World Cup team played a critical elimination match. Yet, for three women in complicated relations, all the roiling national fervor is just background noise to their own personal dramas in Salvador Aguirre’s Love on a WKND (trailer here), which screens as part of this year’s Hola Mexico Film Festival.

The rich are different, because they do indeed have more money. Without the mundane worries of survival, Joaquín and Teresa can enjoy a quiet weekend as houseguests of his boss Luis. Angling for a promotion to an American division, they partake in plenty of coke and some friendly wife-swapping. Hey, what could go wrong with that? Meanwhile, one young woman faces more existential issues. A street war incited by a socialist political party between itinerant street hawkers and the more established vendors working the “stalls” threatens to drive a wedge between her and her lover. She also happens to be pregnant, making her situation all the more delicate.

Clearly the middle class characters are those most concerned with keeping up appearances. For Sophia, this can be very painful as she listens to her former lover André’s mournful violin from the apartment next door while wondering about what might have been. None of the featured characters is particularly political in WKND. In fact, when politics intrudes in their lives, it represents demagoguery and even death. Neither are they especially interested in the big match, but in a quietly heavy scene, André explains he has to watch it anyway “because it’s Mexico.”

While WKND spans generations and classes, its characters never intersect. Frankly, this is a refreshing change from scores of festival films that consist of little more than chance meetings and crossed paths of a host of seemingly unrelated individuals. Each story here is essentially discrete and unrelated, aside from the common time frame. Perhaps the weakest arc of the film involves the upper class hedonists, but might offer the greatest entertainment value, since it features the frequently nude Paola Núñez as the young wife. Conversely, the most challenging storyline graphically illustrates the dangerous absurdity of class warfare run amok, yet ultimately reaches the most hopeful note.

However, the best performances far and away are seen during the scenes of middle class yearning. Argentinean based Mexican actress Adriana Barraza (Oscar nominated for Babel) gives a knockout performance as Sophia, the profoundly unhappy wife and mother. Likewise, Juan Carlos Barreto is quietly poignant as the heartsick André.

Like most ensemble multi-stranded films, WKND is somewhat uneven. Wisely though, it does not force artificial connections or indulge in much pretentious soul-searching. Distinguished by several very strong performances and some grittily realistic scenes of ideological violence, WKND has enough to recommend it. It screens again during the Hola Mexico Film Festival this Sunday (6/6) at the Quad.