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Captive (2004)
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Full disclosure revoked."
4 stars

Argentina, 1994: Cristina (Bárbara Lombardo) celebrates her quincañera with her affluent family, only weeks later to be called out of her Catholic classroom and be clandestinely taken to a federal courthouse to learn that her real parents were disappeared in 1978, and a recent blood test has proven her lineage, prompting the real family to fight for custody.

(The suspense in those sequences of events keep building, as any hint of what’s about to be revealed is evasively stonewalled and deferred to an answer of “later.”) Denial is her first reaction, having never heard word of adoption mentioned to her before, and her past is dashed and doubted as she is forced to wrestle with the facts presented to her. (Little details, like trying to decide whether to be called Cristina, or her birthname, Sofia, resonate with authenticity.) The law says she must be turned over to her rightful family, and in transferring schools she comes across one of her erstwhile classmates (Mercedes Funes) who was removed for her fervent political opposition, and whose own parents were disappeared — her mother eventually returned — offering help to Cristina for her own closure. Gaston Biraben’s first feature is a film with small sights but broad results, told in a passionate sincerity that is in other films often replaced with simple exploitation. Although a fictionalized story from doubtless realities, Biraben is sensitive to the subject matter and the actual subject whose story is being told. With all of that in mind, I can only go partway with the film. The highly introspective piece steadily becomes too heady (not exhilarating, internal) leaving a lot of the weight on Lombardo to act without words. As possibly disastrous as that is, Lombardo and her intense co-star, Funes, are something of a revelation, especially in the case of Lombardo, a major find who is more than capable in the role, and amazing for her naturalness in front of the camera. (The film contains an unnecessary nude shot of the two actresses, but for the ease in which it can be excised, the moment has a startling effect, something to do with the nakedness and seeing without covers.) For the feeling that the film runs overtime in length, Captive’s ending comes a little prematurely, neglecting to neatly wrap up the introduction of theories in Cristina’s/Sofia’s origin, the part that “Glow Worm” played, etc., and throughout, Biraben can never make up his mind whether or not to treat this as a mystery. He shows that he can manipulate tension, at times even putting you on the edge of your seat, but flip-flops in the consistency of tone. In the end, even though he wrote the story, Biraben chooses — unlike his protagonist, who has no choice — not to know full disclosure. With Susana Campos, Sylvia Baylé, Hugo Arana, and Lidia Leonor Catalano.


link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8687&reviewer=172
originally posted: 02/05/04 15:39:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

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