Intimate Stories (Spanish)

“Historias Minimas” means “Minimal Stories,” and a truer title for this good-natured but tedious film could not have been chosen. (It has been retitled, for some reason, “Intimate Stories,” which is not apt at all.) It shows us three disparate characters, each heading for the Argentine city of San Julian, each for different reasons and by different means. It shows us very little beyond that.

Roberto (Javier Lombardo) is a traveling salesman hoping to impress a young widow by surprising her child, Rene, with a birthday cake. Don Justo (Antonio Benedictis) is an old man with poor vision who sits in front of his son’s grocery store and entertains passing children by wiggling his ears. He learns that his long-lost dog, Badface, has turned up in San Julian. Maria (Javiera Bravo) is a shy young mother who has won an appearance on a TV game show called “Multicolored Casino.”

It is a road movie for a while, with characters coming in and out of each other’s lives and getting into mild predicaments. Roberto frets over getting the perfect cake, ultimately reaching Seinfeldian levels of obsession; Don Justo evades his son, who is pursuing the crazy old man; Maria wins a “multiprocessor” but doesn’t know what one is (neither do I). Little of it is funny, per se, but it’s all very light-hearted.

Unfortunately, light-hearted can only take you so far. The plot threads are all resolved, but not with any measure of originality or poignancy. Director Carlos Sorin cast mostly non-actors and allowed them to improvise from Pablo Solarz’s script. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need strong dialogue and carefully nuanced acting to pull it off; I think something as minimal as “Minimal Stories” is one of those times.

(Of course, the character who stood out the most to me as seeming like an uncomfortable non-actor — he has one scene in a diner with Roberto — turned out to be one of the few professional actors in the film, so what do I know?)

Having sat through the repetitive film and having been bored through much of it, I still have fond memories of the people in it. The characters are likable and honest — the benefit of casting regular people, I suppose. I would love to see these characters but in a different movie.

C- (1 hr., 34 min.; Not Rated, probably PG-13 for a little harsh profanity.)