An Unexpected Love (El Amor Menos Pensado)

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Every now and again a movie comes along that is so beautifully executed, where the script is so touching and the performances so moving that you forget that you are watching a movie at all, and instead are a fly on the wall for the most intimate moments of the characters’ lives. We cry when they cry, we laugh when they laugh and when the music swells, so too do our hearts.

I loved this movie. This is potentially one of the best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen, and I’m including the seemingly untouchable Richard Curtis beauties of the nineties and early 2000s. Ana (Mercedes Moran) and Marcos (Ricardo Darin) have been married for 25 years and find themselves lost and aimless after their son moves to Spain for university. They have fun together, they’re comfortable with each other, but they both decide that they’re not in love anymore and mutually decide to separate. The story follows their separate journeys as they rediscover the excitement of single life but how they also come to view their relationship and marriage having done so.

There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the subject matter here, the “empty-nester” motif has been done before but it’s something I wish was explored more in film. Ana and Marcos have devoted their lives to their son, and upon his leaving realise that they are all of a sudden confronted with a world with nothing concrete to look forward to. They are existing without direction and it’s scary. There is some beautiful dialogue from Ana early in the film about this very thing, and how she can’t simply wait around for grandchildren before she can live with a sense of purpose again.

It must be a genuinely terrifying thing for couples once they reach that stage of their lives where their kids have grown up, perhaps they are reaching retirement age and all of a sudden they are faced with an empty house and only each other to fill the silence. I like this idea for a film; these aren’t young people looking for that first experience of love, these are people who have loved each other and worry that they’ll never have that giddy sensation again.

The performances from Moran and Darin are sensational; they’ve got undeniable chemistry and a stellar script allows them both to really make us as an audience buy them as a couple. I liked that this was not a film about a vitriolic break up like so many are, this is more subtle and instead explores their understanding of identity both as individuals and as a couple. There are scenes with supporting characters where we do see the funnier and pettier side of break ups, and these are genuinely hilarious. Then again we witness them both being exposed to the world of dating again, and my cinema was in absolute hysterics as they both are subjected to horror Tinder dates and the like.

The supporting cast as a whole is good fun and very touching, especially Ana’s mother and step father, who in one heartwarming scene dance around the kitchen with Ana to cheer her up one evening. Each of Ana’s and Marcos’ subsequent partners aren’t painted as villainous or idiotic, but the director cleverly drops little hints and reminders of their marriage throughout and how both just can’t seem to escape their history together.

I think that’s what’s lovely about this film; it’s as sweet and as funny as rom-coms come but as a film it’s clever and offers an insightful and meaningful look into a time of life that isn’t necessarily explored all that often in cinema. Argentina has produced some incredible films, and “An Unexpected Love” fits right in with the legacy of “The Secrets in Their Eyes”, “Wild Tales” and “Nine Queens”. This film was hilarious, touching and offers a truly refreshing love story by reminding us of the beauty in ordinary life.

By Jock Lehman

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