Monday, October 20, 2008

Film Review: Don't Look Down

"Don't Look Down" ** 1\2 (out of ****)

In movies sex is rarely just sex. Sex is usually used to trigger more than passion. It can transcend beyond that. A power struggle, a display of dominance. Sometimes, through it, you can find the meaning of life. That is the idea behind Eliseo Subiela's film "Don't Look Down" (2008, No Mires Para Abajo).

Eloy (Leandro Stivelman) has just lost his father. The boy has a hard time getting over his death. Every night when he goes to sleep he notices when he wakes up messages are written in his notebook. Are they from his father? That is his first instinct. It is discovered however that Eloy has become a sleepwalker and he is the one writing in the notebook. On one of his sleepwalks, which he does on rooftops, he falls into Elvira's (Antonella Costa) bedroom.

Elvira, the very name suggest a temptress, studies Kama Sutra. It is her intention to help Eloy get over the pain of his father's death through sex. And the Kama Sutra, she believes, will improve his life in other ways. It will help him live a longer and healthier life.

"Don't Look Down" now becomes one of those movies which shows us the joys of life. Life is beautiful if only we would take the time out and actually enjoy it. Films such as this are suppose to offer us "life lessons". This is where the film fails.

Before I walked into the theatre to see this movie I thought it would be a very erotic, sensual film, but the story would go deeper. It would become the kind of movie I just described earlier. It is not so. The movie has plenty of sex scenes. Some of which were more explicit than I thought they would be. The viewer gets lots of full frontal nudity from both actors. And these scenes are erotic. There were plenty of couples in the theatre with me. Which suggested a lot. More than I can reveal here.

But that is the problem with the movie. It becomes nothing more than a sex movie. It is not a porn. It doesn't sink to those lows but it becomes something you might see late on Showtime. The film does make attempts to offer us something deeper but they are amateurish.

The title "Don't Look Down" does even make much sense. The only connection I can see it having to the rest of the movie is Eloy was taught by his father how to walk on stilts. Perhaps "don't look down" is what you tell someone when you are high in the air. But so what? The title doesn't serve the movie well.

Nothing visually exciting (with the exception of the sex scenes, which provides a different kind of excitement) is done here. I didn't walk out of the theatre remembering anything about the movie other than the sex. There are moments when the movie does hit home the idea of sex being used to teach us about life but then that scene is followed by the two of them trying a new Kama Sutra position and soon you are forgetting the scene before it.

My first instinct was this must be the work of a new director. Someone who had a good idea in their head but just didn't know how to bring it to the screen. Then I find that Eliseo Subiela has directed 19 movies! You'd think by now he would know how to properly tell a story.

Antonella Costa is a beauty. She has appeared in several films and her most notable may be "The Motorcycle Diaries". I don't know if I can really comment on her acting but she does make a strong screen presence. She may be the best thing about the movie.

"Don't Look Down" could have been a great movie. It could have been one of those movies where you walk out of the theatre feeling good about yourself. It gives you hope. But the movie doesn't show us the magic of life. It excites our body but not our mind.

The movie played at the Chicago International Film Festival. At this point I am unsure if it will find American distribution.