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Subtle Performer Depicts a Woman Aiming to Make Her Mark

Subtle Performer Depicts a Woman Aiming to Make Her Mark

Small towns have a certain charm, often depicted in movies where miracles seem plausible, everybody knows each other, and news travels at lightning speed. “Chronicles of a Wandering Saint,” a comedy-drama set in Santa Rita, a small coastal town in Argentina, perfectly encapsulates this atmosphere, unfolding a tale where a woman’s life takes a surprising turn.

The story revolves around Rita, played by Monica Villa, a devout woman devoted to her church and friends. Her mundane life of gossip and minor dramas gets upended when she discovers a long-lost religious statue. For Rita, this find represents a chance to stand out, to be celebrated within her close-knit community, finally giving her the fame and admiration she’s always craved.

Yet, her desire for recognition blinds her to the efforts of her husband, Norberto, played by Horacio Anibal Marassi. Norberto works nights at a neighborhood bar, and despite their long marriage, he’s invested in rekindling the romance. He goes to great lengths, even recreating a memorable meal from their honeymoon 40 years ago, complete with mist from a water bottle to evoke the waterfalls they visited. However, Rita remains indifferent, telling him, “The waterfalls are the same, but we’re not,” as her mind stays fixated on unveiling her holy artifact for maximum effect.

The film, helmed by first-time filmmaker Tomás Gómez Bustillo, who both wrote and directed it, is influenced heavily by Latin American Magical Realism, drawing inspiration from literary giants like Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, and Jorge Luis Borges. At around the 35-minute mark, the narrative takes such a sharp turn that the end credits roll before the story resumes, signaling to the audience that this film isn’t meant to be taken too literally.

This strategic break in the narrative showcases Bustillo’s intention to keep the audience on their toes. The latter part of the movie shifts in tone and pace, with Rita, wonderfully portrayed by Villa, undergoing a transformation. Her character evolves, forced to reconsider the implications of her overwhelming desire for recognition and love.

As the film progresses, its humor becomes more noticeable and whimsical. Bustillo’s minimalist wit ensures the story never feels overdone. While some scenes verge on the absurd, reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch’s deadpan style, Rita’s journey probes deeper questions about fame and its cost.

“Chronicles of a Wandering Saint” is filled with unexpected surprises, much like its protagonist Rita. From the sly inclusion of a Dutch cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” to a surprise cameo by a literal horned devil, the film refuses to be pigeonholed. If it comments on spiritual faith and the possibility of an afterlife, Bustillo’s beliefs are evident, although one doesn’t need to share them to appreciate the unique world he has crafted.

In one poignant moment, Norberto asks Rita, “Is the wind really just the wind? Or is there something else that we’re not seeing?” The film provides a definitive answer to this query, leaving the audience with much to ponder long after the credits roll.

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