Tilda Swinton & Julio Torres in touching debate – The Hollywood Reporter

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In Julio Torres surrealist discussion feature Difficulty, a boy who wants to pull off the seemingly impossible meets a woman who never thought her demands were unbelievable. What an unlikely pair they make: Alejandro (played by Torres), an aspiring toy designer on a work visa, and Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton), a widowed art critic frantically trying to inherit her husband’s legacy to preserve He is calm, reserved and easily put on by the harsh challenges of the world. She’s meticulous, ungrateful and has never been told “no” in her life.

Their first meeting is an accident. Rejection from Hasbro’s talent promotion program forces Alejandro, a recent immigrant from El Salvador, to take a job handling corpses at a human cryogenic freezing company – for fear of losing his visa. He is tasked with keeping an eye on the body of Elizabeth’s husband, Bobby (RZA), who is tied up in a room. They are quickly introduced when an angry Elizabeth visits like a hurricane to dispute a bill. Stressed and agitated, his presence disturbs the other workers. Alejandro finds it interesting.


The bottom line

Absolute happiness.

Location: SXSW Film Festival (Headline)
Cast: Julio Torres, Tilda Swinton, RZA, Isabella Rossellini, Larry Owens
Director-Writer: Julio Torres

1 hour 38 minutes

Their next meeting is an act of chance. After tripping over a wire and disconnecting Bobby’s body chamber from the exit, Alejandro is unceremoniously fired by management. Her dismissal coincides with another visit from Elizabeth – the bill still in dispute, her patience thin. When he helps her move Bobby’s pictures from storage at the freezer company back to his studio, she asks him to book a gallery show for detailed pictures of her late husband’s eggs. With no options, no bookkeeping experience or working knowledge of the FileMaker Pro database software, Alejandro agrees to the job.

They call the show “Thirteen Eggs” – a literal reference to the number of egg pictures Bobby left in Elizabeth’s care before freezing himself for posterity. These large, rich animals still show eggs in action and at rest, hiding behind thick curtains and basking in the shade of a wine glass. Alejandro and Elizabeth talk about them in terms of the humorous poetry of the art world.

The pictures make up one of several subtle and attractive threads Difficulty, a confident beginning whose surrealist ambitions never conquered his heart. Torres, formerly SNL writer and creator of the disappointingly short-lived HBO comedy Los Espookysusing her unique beauty to build a sensitive story of self-actualization.

Difficulty expanding into its own universe, unrelated to the logic of our world. Torres, who also wrote the screenplay, bathes us in the layers of his vision: a voice-over narration by Isabella Rossellini draws us into the past, where we learn about Alejandro’s imaginative and sheltered childhood with his observant artist mother Dolores (Catalina Saavedra); DP Fredrik Wenzel’s sweeping camerawork takes us into Alejandro’s authentic childhood home in El Salvador before taking us to the gray, trash-filled streets of Brooklyn, where the young artist now lives; and Robert Ouyang Rusli’s brilliant score moves us from one moment to the next.

The film begins with the wonderful storybook quality of a Wes Anderson film before segueing into workplace comedy forms reminiscent of novels like Ling Ma. break up (no relation to the TV show) and Raven Leilani’s Luster. Scenes of Alejandro filming a video resume or checking in with his manager during his brief stint at the cryogenic lab capture the frustration and discomfort of office politics. .

Before we get too comfortable with that chart, Difficulty transform again. Now it’s a funny but sad look at the US immigration system. Then a picture of desperation as Alejandro scrambles to find jobs that will help him pay his immigration taxes​​​​​​ and make rent. Later, it turns into a heartfelt story about his and Elizabeth’s warm friendship.

Both do not start on warm or cold terms. The relationship is, first of all, about business. Alejandro needs a visa sponsor; Elizabeth, a resource for her concerns. With time – most of it spent running around New York to retrieve Bobby’s photos or Elizabeth begging Alejandro to get the database in order – the richness of their relationship grows more obvious. Torres and Swinton play out their characters’ love with an unmistakable depth. Progress in their relationship is measured in the harsh exchange of vocal notes, knowing to be watched and, for Alejandro, the courage to stand up for himself in the end and against Elizabeth’s nervous energy and erratic demands.

If I do Difficulty sound like it’s raining sentimental, it’s not. Torres has created a strange and unique little film, one that reflects his unique tastes and curiosities. Parts of the screenplay might have allowed us to guess a little more instead of staring at us (as Dolores does her son), asking if we can connect the pieces in this narrative puzzle . Torres’ self-assertion is more evident in the absurdist as well as details that he scatters throughout. A visual focus on hands, an intricate maze as a metaphor for the labyrinthine immigration system and a kind of alternate universe where he deals with his most difficult discussions and decisions – these are the movements that has earned, and will continue to earn, committed Torres. fan base. They are the success of a director with an enviable imagination, a filmmaker who stubbornly and surprisingly works on his own terms.

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