TLA Releasing,

Marcelo Briem

Patricio Ramos,
Mario Verón,
Carlos Echevarría,
Laura Agorreca,
Mike Zubi

Unrated, 76 minutes

Secrets And Lies
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online December, 2013

The synopsis for this film on mentions a “shocking, strangely satisfying conclusion.” It was shocking all right; I’m not sure about the “strangely satisfying” part. (Full disclosure: loved the first hour, hated the ending.)

I don’t remember the last time I was this turned on and this disturbed by a movie. From Argentina comes writer/director Marcelo Briem Stamm’s first feature film, Solo (translation: Alone). Solo is the story of two men who connect in an internet chatroom and then agree to meet in person. One night stands are frequent film fodder but the theme is always open to new variations. The dynamics of this hook-up are compelling and convincing - the initial awkwardness, the horniness, the confessions. Much of it unfolds in real time; some of it in long, (and well acted), unbroken takes.

Manuel (Patricio Ramos) looks a bit like the boy next door. Julio (Mario Verón) looks a little more like rough trade. He wears a hoodie over a flannel shirt, while Manuel is more vanilla in a turtleneck. The attraction is immediate and Manuel takes Julio home. A bond begins between the two. Both men seem damaged; each is insecure and doesn’t like being lied to. They each have major baggage and lots of trust issues. But, despite their caution, they’re both really turned on too and their hormones are about to go into overdrive.

The film’s English title, “alone,” is a word frequently uttered. Each doesn’t want to be alone; each needs to be certain that the other is alone and that there is no other boyfriend. Julio especially needs reassurance. Manuel tells him to relax. They begin to kiss. Things start heating up. (If, like me, you enjoy kissing scenes, there is a lot to enjoy here.) Manuel gets distracted for a moment, triggering a brief flashback. He tells Julio about his ex, Horacio (Carlos Echevarria). Their breakup was a bad one. They had two good years and then came the affairs, the threeways, the gang bangs. Julio tells him that he “had a lot of Horacios. But no Manuels.” It is a sweet moment. When they wind up in bed, they ask if this means that they’re boyfriends.

Each is needy in varying degrees. “I looked at you,” says Julio, “and hoped you would be the one.” But Julio has also been around and he knows the body language. “I asked if you were alone,” he remarks, “and you got nervous and looked down.” There is a striking scene where he becomes hurt, and then aggressive, when he starts recognizing “the signs” (looking at the clock, pretending to yawn) when Manuel suddenly changes his mind about Julio spending the night. When he says “we’ll talk another day,” Julio asks, “When? Because that is the third most common lie.”

Solo is a very sexy movie. Hot man on man sex alternates with rising drama. The air is erotically charged but there is also a hint of danger. It seems like both guys are hiding something or telling “a different version of the truth.” Julio says that you never know whom you are bringing into your home and then arouses suspicions later when his cellphone keeps going off. Manuel becomes agitated and doesn’t believe Julio when he tells him that the caller is another man from a chatroom who has turned into a stalker. Julio doesn’t help matters when his anger surfaces on more than one occasion. He’s a bit of a loose cannon but explains that he’s just being careful because he doesn’t want to get hurt again. He promises Manuel that he will never treat him the way that Horacio did, and proposes that they run away together.

Solo is a well made film. The photography is exceptional and the minimalist piano score is understated while effectively establishing mood. The use of flashbacks is interesting. Hitchcock famously opened his 1950 Stage Fright with a flashback that lied and the film’s first audiences didn’t like that. I’m not saying that the flashbacks lie in Solo, but information is withheld and then revealed later when the same flashback is repeated. The flashbacks will often contradict or misdirect when not seen in its proper context… or because Manuel is deliberately leaving something out.

I enjoyed the film’s first hour a lot. In fact, Solo’s best scenes bear comparison with Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. Watching the initial spark between two men can be very satisfying and this film gets it right. Their scenes together come across as genuine and sincere, not to mention erotic. The acting is superb; Ramos and Verón have remarkable chemistry and the sexual attraction couldn’t feel more authentic. I loved watching these guys kiss and, like the dudes in Weekend, I wanted to see them live happily every after. At the very least, I hoped they would agree to meet for a second date.

Which brings us to… the ending. Solo, oddly, is the third consecutive title that I’ve reviewed whose conclusion almost unraveled whatever good will I felt towards the rest of the film. I hated the ending but, of course, I cannot discuss why without giving it away. There’s nothing wrong with exploring the dark side of dating but there’s a plot twist that is so unexpected that I don’t know whether to applaud the director for his boldness or slap him upside the head. I know that I’ll never forget the ending of Solo but that doesn’t mean I like it - or find it “strangely satisfying.” I’ll just say this – don’t watch this film on a first date; it might scare him away.


Mario Veron also appears in:
Sexual Tension: Volatile

Carlos Echevarria also appears in:
A Year Without Love