LOST EMBRACE (Daniel Burman). 100 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 12) at the Carlton and Bayview Village. See times, page 96. Rating: NNNN
If great acting is about not getting caught at it, the cast of the Argentine film Lost Embrace could give lessons to most of Hollywood's leading thespians. Daniel Hendler (his performance won best actor at Berlin last year) plays Ariel, a Jew who wants to exploit his Polish roots to escape to Europe.
Hendler seems so easy, so natural, it almost feels wrong to call it a performance. As Ariel works to "become Polish," he learns more about his absent father, who lives in Israel, gleaning tiny hints from neighbours at the mall where his mother, Sonia ( Adriana Aizemberg ), runs a lingerie shop.
Hendler meets each revelation with subtle shifts in body language and tone, while his expressive eyes convey how trapped he feels. A conversation between mother and son about a long-ago day at the beach is so perfectly written - they have different interpretations of the same event - that you forget it's fiction.
The only downside is that the film's documentary style necessitates a lot of hand-held camera work that, without the distracting subtitles, would be a bit nauseating. Still, Hendler and director Daniel Burman have made a small gem of a picture, one that's worth more than any number of summer popcorn flicks.