VLAFF 2012: Un Cuento Chino tells a funny, memorable tale of an unlikely duo in Buenos Aires
The life of Roberto, the main character in Sebastián Borensztein’s film Un cuento chino (A Chinese Tale), is a reclusive and meticulous one, centred around his Buenos Aires hardware shop.
His days are full of careful routines, like turning off the light on his bed stand at exactly 11 p.m. every night, and painstakingly counting the screws in each box that is shipped to his store.
His interactions with others are often surly and gruff, and anyone who crosses him the wrong way is likely to be subject to a long string of curse words.
But the man’s isolated existence is thrown for a loop with the arrival of Jun, a young man from China who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. As Roberto sits quietly enjoying a beer while watching airplanes land, Jun comes tumbling out of a taxi in front of him, bleeding and crying.
After unsuccessful attempts to leave the lost stranger with the Chinese embassy or the police, Roberto ends up bringing Jun to stay with him while he tries to track down the young man’s uncle and only living relative.
The subsequent week sees Roberto at nerves end as he deals with a stranger in his normally solitary space. But every time he tries to get rid of Jun, concern for the young man seems to materialize through his gruff exterior, drawing him back to the predicament. And the more time the two men spend around each other, they develop a way of communicating despite their extreme language barriers.
It isn’t until Roberto gets a Mandarin-speaking delivery boy from a Chinese food restaurant to act as translator that they discover more about each other's painful life stories.
Actors Ricardo Darín and Huang Sheng Huang manage to brilliantly portray what becomes a clear connection and understanding between the two men. Darín's comedic timing and Huang's earnest expressions as the two try to communicate tell a far more detailed story than seems possible between characters who can’t verbally communicate with each other.
The result is a funny, moving and memorable tale about an unlikely duo brought together through extraordinary circumstances.
Un cuento chino screens as part of the closing gala for the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival on Sunday (September 9) at Granville 7 Cinemas at 7 p.m.