Melancholy can play tricks on ourselves when it becomes the prism of choice to look through our memories. Beloved events become heightened in scale, and unfinished stories feel like the last chance for happiness, success and love. But what if your current life remained motionless, and your only chance for a future seems to be in your past?
The latest effort, Bonsai, from writer/director Christian Jimenez (based on a novel by Alejandro Zambra) brings us the story of Julio (Diego Noguera), who after being rejected from working with a famous writer, fills his life with lies to deal with the emptiness in both his career and relationships. But when he starts to write about his first love Emilia (Natalia Galgani), old feelings resurface and he starts looking for answers and meaning to his present through his memories.
In amazing performances, Noguera and Galgani makes us feel the electricity, intimacy and surrender of young love. Also Gabriela Arancibia as Emilia’s roommate Barbara and Trinidad Gonzalez as Julio’s lover Blanca shine in their respective supportive roles.
The cinematography is also a key element in telling the story: from the perfect framing in a scene with only body language to deliver emotion, the visceral reaction it achieves through close ups on naked body parts, to placing Julio standing still while only his surroundings move, a visual metaphor of his own life. Chile is portrayed as an almost cipher portray of urban Latin America while looking timeless and full of character. The overall present sepia tone’s pallet serve as a beautiful frame in the depiction of nostalgia.
Bonsai is as unique a film as the plant it bases its name on. It lacks the over the top pathos of standard romantic comedies to become a story about self discovery, nostalgia, and how relationships become the mold our lives are shaped after. Like the novel’s author said: “Books and writing are like Bonsai trees, they both rely on containers to make sense”, and Julio’s inner search for sense out of his own life is both touching and universal. Books come from within the writer, its journey , its past and present. Just like the branches of a tree, whose extent can only be determined by its very own roots.