For Victor, a 17 year old wheelbarrow delivery boy for an open air market in Asuncion, Paraguay, there are only two important things in life: money and being on film, and money comes second. And it doesn’t really matter what sort of film. It could be a movie, a TV show, a commercial, or it could just be filming himself on a camera phone that his sister is trying to sell for a pregnant friend, a phone that costs more money than he could ever earn carting groceries around in a single lifetime. Until…
7 Boxes has a pretty neat set up: Victor is hired at the last minute to deliver seven (but of course, you were expecting five and a half maybe) mysterious boxes because some police are snooping around a butcher’s shop. Just what are in these boxes? You don’t find out for awhile, you just know it’s one of those McGuffins where you want to yell at the screen, are you crazy, don’t do it. But he does. And then you find out what is in them. And then…
Well, by that time all hell has broken lose as Victor finds himself being chased by a rival delivery man who was promised the gig in the first place and who is backed by a gang of sociopathic wheelbarrow thugs; the butcher shop owner and his partner who realize that’s what is in the boxes shouldn’t have been in the boxes; the police who are investigating a kidnapping; Victor’s sister who is being wooed by the son of her Chinese boss and gets involved because her pregnant friend is involved; and most annoying and by far the most scary and threatening of all, a girl his age who has a crush on him.
Oh, yeah, there’s also a lot running, I mean, a lot of running, like more running than in a Dr. Who episode. It’d be a farce if it weren’t so life threatening.
And, oh, oh, yeah, there’s also a lot staring. They seem to like to stare down each other a lot in Paraguay. Again, it’d be a farce if it weren’t so life threatening.
7 Boxes is a taut and exciting little thriller, a movie that people who don’t even like to read subtitles might be able to get behind. It’s a first feature, with a clever and edge of your seat screenplay by Tito Chamorro based on an original screenplay by the directors Juan Carlos Mangeglia and Tana Schembori, who give the whole roller coaster ride a frenetic energy with ever moving camera angles that soar through the market, the more than cleverly used main location of all the action.
It also has a thumpingly exciting music score by Fran Villalba that at times soars with the camera work and feeds into your emotions and makes your heart beat faster.
With newcomers Celso Franco as Victor and Lali Gonzaez as Liz, the girl who frightens Victor more than the thugs do, and Beto Ayala who makes the most of a brief series of scenes as a transgendered prostitute.
In Europe and other over there locations, teens coming of age are confronted by seriously harsh realities of life with seriously dysfunctional families (The 400 Blows, Winter in Wartime, Animal Kingdom); or they try to live or experience life to the fullest, both with positive and negative results (Murmur of the Heart, The Dreamers, Amarcord); or they become over their head involved in the social, political and/or artistic movements of their day (Something in the Air).
But after watching more and more films like The Breakfast Club, Stand by Me, The Kings of Summer and The Spectacular Now, I just always get the feeling that teens are doing little locally but whining about how awful their life is, complaining that they are not the center of the universe and that nobody understands them, and to the degree that you just want to sort of slap them silly for not realizing how well off they actually have it.
Is the life of the post pubescent really so boring and dramatically uncompelling in the U.S. in comparison to that overseas? I thought of that as I was watching the new coming of age film from Georgia (the country, not the state), In Bloom, that centers on two friends, Eka and Natia, both female and teenage, who live in Tbilisi in 1992.
Though much of their lives may seem very familiar to American teens (they have ineffectual teachers and there’s a marvelous scene where a bunch of girls are hanging out at Eka’s house, smoking and gossiping and singing a song, and then must hide all the evidence and pretend to be perfect angels when they see Eka’s mother coming), at the same time life is not easy for the two BFF’s.
There are food shortages as people line up to get bread; the economy is nothing to brag about; teachers are ineffectual tyrants; Eka comes a family where everybody hates each other and doesn’t get along and has a father who is an alcoholic and ends up in prison after killing someone; and Natia, who hasn’t yet graduated from high school, is abducted by a young man with the help of his friends, and is forced to marry him (with the implication that he more or less raped her to convince her to do it)—at first she seems happily enough resigned to the circumstances, but comes to discover what a nightmare of a situation she is caught up in.
In Bloom is one of those movies that fully immerses you in another time and another culture and doesn’t try to justify it. The screenplay by Nana Ekvtimishvili and the direction by Ekvtimishvili and Simon Grots may have an issue here and there (at one point, it feels like a scene or two relating to Eke’s father ending up in prison was left on the cutting room floor), but the camera never stops moving and the movie is filled with emotionally rich scenes in which the characters’ lives are shown to be little but a series of everyday threats of violence and danger (highlighted by a powerfully frustrating confrontation that shows a crowds’ lack of a reaction to Natia’s abduction).
But this is just the way life is for these young people and Ekvtimishvili shows a lot of compassion for her characters while also celebrating their attempts to stand up to the way they are being treated. And Lika Babluani as Eka and Mariam Bokeria, both in their screen debuts, give relaxed, naturalistic performances in portraying their characters.
Meanwhile, in the U.S.? Eh. Youth is just wasted on the young.