‘The Companion’ (‘El Acompanante’): Chicago Review

A particular Cuban play set in a admirably Cuban setting, Pavel Giroud’s stylistically some-more stern underline follow-up to The Silly Age — his co-directed docu Playing Lecuona is now doing a rounds – is indeed Cuban by and through, yet during bottom The Companion is a concept story of struggles opposite adversity. The struggles it recounts — opposite a domestic system, opposite disease, and opposite a past — work excellent alone yet reduction good in combination, withdrawal a film looking like an capricious hybrid of jail play and fighting quip yarn.

The connectors between a dual tools are not always clear, notwithstanding a final tilt try to wrench them together: yet such quibbles should not forestall The Companion, with a intriguing context, from anticipating serve festival movement following a Busan and Chicago screenings.

Giroud intriguingly rises a lid on a dim part in new Cuban history. The initial credits exhibit that during a 80s AIDS epidemic, a Cuban supervision motionless it would be a good thought to set adult Los Cocos, a home in a hinterland of Havana where all a island’s HIV patients would live. The problem could therefore be simply contained. Each studious was reserved a ‘companion’ whose genuine pursuit was to surprise a authorities about their habits.

So far, so jaw-droppingly true. One of a patients on this weird establishment, run with an iron palm by a chilling Doctor Mejias (Yailene Sierra), is Daniel Guerrero (Armando Miguel), a lively, cheekily smiling rebel form whose new messenger is a former fighting champ Horacio (singer Yotuel Romero, a former Latin Grammy endowment winner, here in a reduction buoyant mood), himself being punished by a complement for drug-taking.

Their attribute is primarily wary, yet it fast becomes transparent that Horacio’s allegiances are not with a system, reluctant as he to exhibit Daniel’s secrets to Mejias — including a fact that Daniel creates unchanging nightly escapes from a sanatorium. (The film is partly about issues of who we can and can't trust, that are large issues in surveillance-run states: “you don’t need to keep an animal in a enclosure to stop it biting,” Daniel pointedly remarks during one point.) Other characters in this busily plotted square are a weasley, pitiable helper Boris (Jazz Vila), a tiny male with a surprisingly large punch who will after tumble plant to a pathogen himself, and Lisandra (Camila Arteche), who takes a gleam to Horacio and on whose comment Daniel will after turn Boris’s mortal enemy.

The Companion’s many fascinating plotline involves Daniel’s attempts to escape, aided by a puzzling lady called Cheli (Yerlin Perez), who wants to taint her father with Daniel’s blood so that she can get him eliminated from jail to a sanatorium. Blood therefore becomes a middle of exchange, like money, and eventually a impact of this on Daniel plays out in final scenes that should be slashing yet that are indeed over a tip and stagey in a approach that a film has managed so distant to sidestep. They’re a sign of The Silly Age, where such a character was distant some-more appropriate.

If we had a story built around a conspicuous place called Los Cocos, a place from that there so most to be learned, you’d substantially consider twice about dedicating half your film — and a pretension — to a plotline involving a rather deja-vu quip of a vanishing boxer. But that’s only what Giroud does: desirous by Daniel not to only desert his career, Horacio sets about a return, aided by his weather-beaten aged manager Vicente (marvelously played by Salvo Basile).

Amateur fighting is immensely renouned in Cuba, and a executive purpose here should assistance The Companion to do decent internal business, as good as opening adult discuss about machismo and attitudes to homosexuality (a former soldier, Daniel has engaged his pathogen from true sex in Africa, and it was encounters between a Cuban troops and African prostitutes that non-stop a Cuban doorway to a disease). But there’s zero truly particular about Horacio’s story, or a approach it’s told — yet it does quickly hold on a emanate of how Cuba’s non-participation for domestic reasons in a LA and Seoul Olympics extinguished a dreams of a era of Cuban athletes.

Cuba famously takes caring of a citizens’ bodies while depriving them of their polite liberties. And bodies are everywhere in justification in The Companion, and pang a accumulation of fates, either in steadfast closeup on needles being injected or celebrating Romero’s honestly fanciful frame. It is dedicated to a memory of Camilo Vives, a good Cuban film writer who died in 2013.

Production companies: Arese, Tu Vas Voir, Igolai, Nativa
Cast: Yotuel Romero, Armando Miguel, Yailene Sierras, Camila Arteche, Jazz Vila, Jorge Molina, Salvo Basile
Director: Pavel Giroud
Screenwriters: Pavel Giroud, Pierre Edelman, Alejandro Brugues
Producers: Lia Rodriguez, Antonio Anibal Lopez, Edgard Tenembaum, Gustavo Pazmin Perea, Delfina Catala
Director of photography: Ernesto Calzado
Production designer:
Costume designers: Celia Leon, Lisandra Ramos
Editor: Jacques Comets
Composers: Ulises Hernandez, Sergio Valdes
Casting director:
Sales: Habanero Film Sales

No rating, 104 minutes