reviewed by Marc Glassman
Daniel Burman, director & script. Starring: Oscar Martinez (Leonardo), Cecilia Roth (Martha), Eugenia Capizzano (Violeta), Arturo Goetz (Dr. Spivack), Ines Efron (Julia), Jean Pierre Noher (Fernando), Ron Richter (Ianib)
What happens to couples when their children grow up and move away? Argentine auteur Daniel Burman ( Family Law, Lost Embrace ) continues to show a remarkable ability to draw wonderful performances from his actors and tell moving stories of people trying to deal with the day-to-day realities of their lives in his new film Empty Nest . That his tales are set among the middle class in Buenos Aires adds a fillip of exoticism to films that might seem a trifle melodramatic in a North American context.
Here, the story revolves around an intellectual couple who are surrounded by sophisticated friends and well-wishers. Leonardo is a successful playwright while his attractive wife Martha has spent 25 years raising their children and being a loving mate.
When the children move out, it’s Martha who comes out of her shell, forming new friendships by going back to University to finish her degree. Surprisingly, it’s Leonardo who diminishes, finding it difficult to write and obsessing over his daughter’s new Israeli husband Ianib, whose career as a novelist takes off as his seems to decline.
Burman has structured the film in high modernist fashion, moving in a poetic, stream of conscious manner from Leonardo’s romantic dreams to images of him flying a model airplane in a park to amusing scenes of dinner parties in Buenos Aires apartments and restaurants. An affair might or might not take place between Leonardo and his attractive dentist Violeta—and between Martha and her singing suitor Fernando.
Empty Nest is a film of meaningful glances, small gestures, lyrical shots and witty short scenes. It’s not Burman’s best film to date—and he’ll make better ones, no doubt—but it is a quiet, intelligent movie, intended for adults. And how often can you say that about new releases, especially in the summer?