The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - END OF THE CENTURY | The Movie Waffler


end of the century review
After spending a day together in Barcelona, two men realize they may have met years earlier.

Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Lucio Castro

Starring: Juan Barberini, Ramón Pujol, Mia Maestro

end of the century dvd

I know it's quite lazy to draw comparisons to the most successful examples of any subcategory of cinema - such as using 2001 as a simile for any existential space odyssey or David Lynch as the first reference for weirdness - but Lucio Castro's End of the Century, an epically intimate gay love story, really does evoke the subdued sensibilities of Andrew Haigh's Weekend and the strong sense of nostalgia in Call Me by Your Name.

end of the century review

This rich romantic drama also resembles Before Sunrise in a way. Ocho (Juan Barberini) arrives in Barcelona from Argentina via New York and spends some time alone in the sunny coastal city, soaking in the warmth from his balcony and the beach. His perspective gives way to Castro to beautifully photograph the city, framing his character in the centre of a series of establishing shots that make use of BCN's pleasant sights. The first word he shouts, "Kiss", is targeted at Javi (Ramón Pujol), a neighbour he recognises sporting a t-shirt of the band KISS.

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Like the Linklater classic, once the narrative grabs the two leads together, it doesn't let go. Javi is invited up to Ocho's apartment and they hook up immediately, exploiting their instant sexual attraction neither slowly nor steadily. We follow them over the course of a day in Barcelona, hanging out in and around their apartment, the rooftop of which serves as the platform for an epic conversation about life and reminiscence about having seen each other before.

end of the century review

Their gut instincts are correct - they met way back at the turn of the millennium. Javi was married to opera singer Sonia (Mia Maestro), with whom he raised a daughter, and Ocho knew Sonia through her ex-boyfriend, an old friend of Ocho's. Maestro masterfully delivers a long monologue about her time with the ex-boyfriend, the third compelling tale of relationships in this deceptively simple film. The transition to this past is effectively subtle and subtly effective, cutting to Ocho arriving in the Spanish city right when Javi confirms that they have indeed met before, with no discernible changes to the mise en scène to suggest a different time.

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You can't fake chemistry and the two terrific leads are genuine together, as recognised by their director who knows that he doesn't have to dress up their performances by employing close-ups during the sex scenes or use a score to create tension or mood. In fact, the first 12 minutes feature no dialogue and only the final shots are accompanied by music. It's raw and real.

end of the century review

There's more to the surface than the flat, muted formalism may suggest and I can't wait to read thematic deep dives, something that I can't confidently write myself after seeing it only once. The main takeaway from my review of the first viewing is that you should see this film - it's a minor masterpiece of inward storytelling.

End of the Century is on MUBI UK now.