Attention all readers who take their their romance bittersweet: the new Argentine film Esteros is an extraordinary exemplar of this genre. It also qualifies as a fine piece of queer filmmaking.
Directed by Papu Curotto from a script by Andi Nachon, Esteros centers on the reunion of two childhood friends. Mati (Ignacio Rogers) and Jero (Esteban Masturini) spent summers together at a family home, the sons of close friends. The two became inseparable as they fished and swam in the nearby estuaries (sort of natural canals and wetlands that serve as a almost too obvious metaphor for the boys budding sexuality). When Mati’s father took a new job in another city, the two lose contact. What’s so unusual about the depiction of their complete infatuation with each other is the lack of disproval from parental figures. Jero’s mother, in fact, happily snaps a photo of the two boys lying sleeping in a hammock together, but it’s never quite clear if she gets the sexual nature of their feelings for each other.
Flash forward twenty years, and a chance encounter reunites the men. Mati now works as a biologist and has a longtime girlfriend, Rochi (Renata Calmon), while Jero has become a semi-employdc make-up and special effects artist who is mostly just “gay,” which makes Mati uncomfortable because of his complicated feelings toward thei fledgling sexual experience as adolescents. Still, the two can’t quite deny their history, or the magnetic pull they feel toward one another.
So, will they or won’t they? Do they even want to? Is Mati even gay, or did he just enjoy the same kind of experimental sexual experience that so many adolescent men and women do? Will a childhood bond ignite romance?
Don’t expect us to answer those questions here. Esteros does a fine job of keeping the viewer guessing, dropping hints that could go multiple directions. Gorgeous photography and an almost voyeuristic intimacy of the film make Jero and Mati fascinating to watch.
At one point, Mati chides Jero for living a juvenile life of quick sex without relationships or family. Whether his equating gayness with youth and promiscuity says more about the character of Mati or attitudes toward gay sexuality in Argentina is left open to interpretation. The conversation does, however, set up a fascinating dynamic as both men feel their old feelings resurface. Far from an oblivious dope, long-suffering Rochi senses the profound bond between the two men, one that far surpasses her own connection, and the reasons why Jero might want to keep it a secret. That the movie treats the girlfriend—usually a useless figure in the is-he-gay-or-straight/dude-with-gay-history plot—as a thoughtful, caring woman only makes the film all the more compelling.
Masturini, as the smoldering heartthrob, and Rogers, as the reluctant lover, both enjoy an easy sexual charisma that makes their chemistry irresistible to all but the most hardened hearts. Director Curotto fills the movie with some with plenty of symbolism. Scenes of young Mati & Jero spraying each other with water and shaving cream–and the metaphor it implies–will illicit a giggle or three.
Esteros is available on Netflix
Estero is Spanish for estuary, the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream. So that said, this is a good movie all things considered. Very Argentine in how it is done which means some Americans will not catch all the nuances. The comment about the parents approval in the article being a good example. Kids showing affection to each other is not immediately considered as sexual in nature whether it is or is not. But this is a country where adult, heterosexual men routinely kiss each other.
I enjoyed it a great deal. My husband who is a Porteño , thought it was funny but he has a twisted sense of humor. His attitude was there was no reason for angst because any Porteño would continue with the girlfriend and also fuck the guy on the side.
No; it’s not the best queer film about adolescent desire. Its just another shitty gay film about homos who can’t come to terms with being gay. Why do all gay films suck? And yes; I mean ALL of them. Will someone please make a gay movie that isn’t complete shit and a complete waste of my time?!?!
hmmm, i guess you didn’t watch the movie.
This would seem a perfect opportunity for you to do that: find or write a script, get funded , hire actors, film and splice the film. What’s stopping you? I eagerly await your non-sucky film.
The bitterness runs deep with this one
Such a beautiful movie.
The movie was okay. There are better queer films.
For coming of age movies, i liked mysterios skin, boys, being 17, holding your man, and y tu mama tambien.
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