3 (Pablo Stoll Ward – Uruguay/Argentina/Germany) 115 minutes
Uruguayan filmmaker Pablo Stoll Ward returns with his fourth film – his first two were co-directed with the late Juan Pablo Rebella. 3 tells the tale of a few months in the life of a semi-estranged nuclear family. Ana (Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy) is a disengaged seventeen-year-old, at risk of being expelled from school for constant truancy and lateness. Her mother, Graciela (Sara Bessio) is spending long hours at the hospital caring for her dying aunt. Meanwhile, father Rodolfo (Humberto de Vargas) is becoming disillusioned with his dentistry practice while his second marriage turns sour. He then starts sniffing around the old family home, in the hope of ingratiating himself with his daughter and possibly sparking something up with his ex-wife.
Graciela, however has started seeing another carer she has met in the hospital, Dustin ("like Dustin Hoffman") (Néstor Guzzini). Ana spends her time chasing after older men, of vaguely rock-star allure, leaving Rodolfo, on his own in the family homestead he has managed to inveigle his way back into.
While 3 is certainly a likeable film, with fine performances from all, and Stoll has a gently, unobtrusive directorial touch, there are a few too many false notes in it. Ana, despite being uninterested in pretty much everything around her and approaching things with a consequently crippling lethargy, (nothing incredible in that for a teenager) still manages to get called up to the national handball team. The soundtrack is plastered with rock songs, sometimes overlaid in a very awkward fashion. It’s often distracting as is the guitar-driven score (the guitar is a risky instrument to use for film music – too often it can overwhelm the visuals). Rodolfo’s obsessive-compulsive tidiness is rather wearily contrasted with the more unkempt habits of Graciela. It is only really with Graciela that the film succeeds, largely thanks to an economy of means. She is a brooding, wounded woman, whose pride will not allow her to take her ex-husband back, however lonely and unfulfilling her life might be. Ultimately though, 3, for all its qualities, is overlong and has very little to set itself apart from numerous similar recent films from the cone of South America.