TV Director Ana Piterbarg’s “Everybody has A Plan” (Todos tenemos un plan) is the Argentine “A Stolen Life”. The 1946 twin-plotted psychological thriller was so successful for Bette Davis she remade it as the wonderful “Dead Ringer” (1964), and it was copied for the Delores Del Rio vehicle “La Otra” in 1946.
There is a strong tradition of psychological thrillers, slow simmer films in Argentina and this is that in spades.
Viggo Mortensen (in his third Spanish language film) plays twin brothers Agustín/ Pedro in this noir-inflected swamp-story Buenos Aires pediatrician Agustin’s marriage is on the rocks. Claudia’s “The Secret in Their Eyes”, “The Red Bear” (2009) been planning to adopt a baby, just as she’s about to close, he panics, informing her that he’s not eager to adopt. Devastated, she decides to sell the apartment and adopt the child on her own. Mortensen grew up in Venezuela, Denmark and finally Argentina and his drawling Spanish is convincing.
Depressed Agustin barricades himself in the study. Claudia makes a business trio, and out of the blue, his estranged twin brother, Pedro shows up. At first the two twins couldn’t be more opposite.
Dying of cancer, Pedro lives in their family home on an island in the Delta del Tigre. Assisted by Rosa (Sofia Gala’-“Piedras”) Pedro harvests honey in the snake infested swamps that surround Tigre.
But honey isn’t his only ‘business”. He’s a petty thief who’s hatched a kidnapping scheme with felons Ruben (Javier Godino-“The Secret in Their Eyes”) and thuggish born-again Adrian (Daniel Fanego). The kidnapping failed. Someone was murdered. Weak from the disease, Pedro needs a favor; he needs Agustin to impersonate him long enough to pick up his money.
A fatal accident gives Augustin a way out. Fleeing his life, Augustin swaps identities with Pedro. Things go from bad to worse. Arriving at El Tigre, he develops a sexual attraction to Anna, and becomes the target of locals because of the fatally botched kidnapping.
Adrian’s taken a powder. Pedro’s corpse shows up. Claudia arrives, looking for Augustin and he plays her off. But she knows.
Ana Piterbarg’s Obra Primo has some of the excesses you might expect. It’s long and a mash up of genres; part psychological thriller, part existential critique of society, part crime picture. Mortensen creates two different brothers, a sleazy Pedro, as vacant eyed as a Zombi and an agitated, frustrated Augustin, and the two perfs make up for the lack of tension some script flaws. One flaw is our brief look at Pedro. If we knew him better, the impersonation would have had additional layers. Another is the underdeveloped arcs for Claudia and Ana.
You’ve never seen this Mortensen. He creates two different brothers, a sleazy Pedro, as vacant eyed as a Zombi and an agitated, frustrated Augustin each with different timing, tics, walks, in Spanish yet. In a quiet way, it’s as impressive as Christoph Waltz’s nimble English language comic timing in “Django Unleashed.”
Forced into a complicated life, with little facts to go on, Auguston has to second-guess every remark out of his mouth, and it’s fun to watch his mind work.
Production values are high. DP Lucio Bonelli (“Liverpool”) creates a ghostly, a timeless limbo land, where Augustin/Pedro drifts like Charon in his boat on the river Styx.
Piterbarg has a good sense of the random violence unleashed in remote places. She’s also enriched the film with telling character details, moody set pieces and ambiance. I hope she grabs the story reins harder on the next film. A TREAT FOR MORTENSEN FANS