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Lush Gay Romance Explores Paths Not Taken

Evocative purple skies bear witness to a tantalizing and figuring out fling in Lucio Castro’s structurally audacious debut “End of the Century,” the homosexual equal of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, distilled right into a single movie that’s constructed of buoyant encounters separated by 20 years, conversational walks via a European metropolis, and the phantasm of a married-with-children future.

“KISS!” yells Ocho (Juan Barberini), an Argentine poet visiting Barcelona in 2019, from a balcony in reference to a T-shirt that Javi (Ramón Pujol), an ex-local now residing in Berlin who’s on the town to see household, wears as he walks by Ocho’s Airbnb-rented condo. It’s the primary phrase of dialogue spoken following a day of mute courting that culminates in intense intercourse. The garment itself is later unmasked as a memento charged with relevance past being trite rock-group merchandise.

Instinctually animalistic, the impromptu sexual rendezvous acts as Castro’s first indicator of the alternative wavelengths these two males are on. Javi is cautious and requests they use a condom, whereas Ocho, on PrEP, is used to unprotected penetration with Grindr hookups. This divide is furthered uncovered when Javi outs himself as a sentimental romantic with an excellent reminiscence for incidents that marked him spiritually, which contrasts with Ocho’s goals of complete freedom and lack of accountability within the aftermath of a 20-year monogamous relationship.

In their swoon-worthy roles, Barberini and Pujol exude a sensual effervescence scented with craving, remorse, and acquiescence. Their banter masquerades as that of a platonic bromance between two bearded, straight-acting, and historically masculine males, and but with each trade, whereas ingesting on rooftops that oversee the touristy Spanish city, it turns into extra obvious that every symbolizes a watershed for the opposite’s historical past. Incandescent and disarmingly seductive, their performances are full-blooded magic.

A flashback situated midway via the duo’s post-coital date places every little thing into perspective, disclosing the heterosexual lives they each led once they first crossed paths on the flip of the millennium. Comfortably performed by actress and singer Mía Maestro (“The Strain”), opera performer Sonia inadvertently introduced them collectively when one was her boyfriend and the opposite her longtime pal. Their fiery assembly again then, simply as Ocho grappled along with his sexual orientation and Javi contemplated ending a heady documentary, had the ability to change their destinies personally and professionally.

Castro doesn’t forged youthful actors to play Javi and Ocho within the 90s, and he additionally doesn’t attempt to disguise his stars’ ages. Barberini sports activities grey hairs all through. It’s atemporal casting not just for the practicality of not having to change performers for others (who could or might not be able to replicating their scorching chemistry) but in addition a bodily manifestation of the concept that even when, on the floor, they’re the identical folks, internally the change has been profound.

The passage of time is as an alternative communicated in minuscule, nearly imperceptible particulars, like a digicam and a map up to now as an alternative of a cellphone, or the palpable, delayed attraction of a postcard compared to the immediacy of a WhatsApp message. Castro’s writing could come throughout as deceivingly free because of the summery vibes that cinematographer Bernat Mestres’s imagery summons and the seemingly easy candor in Pujol and Barberini’s charismatic turns, however make certain that each visible component and relayed intimate element pays off.

Such avid manipulation of what objects inside the body can categorical is utilized exponentially to the film’s climactic…

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