If you’ve ever fallen for a straight friend — and fallen hard — make sure that Sebastián Arrau’s Muñeca tops the list of your must-sees during this year’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Even if you’ve never lusted for a hetero, the story and themes explored in this film are universal, regardless of sexuality or gender.
Set on the eve of the election of Chile’s first female president, Muñeca gives us a brief window into the friendship between Pedro (portrayed brilliantly by Benjamín Vicuña), a painfully introverted gay man, and his best friend Manuel (Marcial Tagle), a hedonistic, buffoonish straight man who lives with Pedro in Pedro’s mother’s house.
In a classic Guess-Who’s-Coming-To-Dinner turn to the plot, Manuel sets up Pedro on a blind dinner date. When Pedro’s date arrives in the form of a mature woman in search of a sperm donor, Manuel and Pedro’s relationship begins to unravel. The addition of one of Manuel’s former college students to the dinner party doesn’t help matters either.
Pay particular attention to the beginning of the film. Every character has incorrect preconceptions about everyone else. The idea of mistaken identity or being mistaken for something other than what you are is integral to this film’s exploration of what it means to be homosexual in modern day Chile.
Although the conflict created by the situational aspect of this movie is captivating, it’s the friendship between Pedro and Manuel that is truly striking. Here we see the blind faith and trust we invest in friendships and place in our friends and family, and how often — despite their best intentions to help — they fail to see us or accept us for who we are.
The exploration of unrequited love, though at times humorous, is a painful reminder that the greatest distance to be travelled is often the distance between two people.
Arrau’s script is fiery and alive in the hands of this excellent ensemble cast of notable Latin American actors. Arrau also directed the film and his cinematography is jaw dropping. The colour and texture of the set and wardrobe become a visual spectacle through his expert grasp of cinematic technique, and every shot illuminates the unfolding narrative.