Hardware shop owner Roberto's life is turned upside-down when he reluctantly takes on the care of a Chinese man.
The prolific Darin (Nine Queens; The Son of the Bride; The Secret in Their Eyes) demonstrates his versatility in this sweet but poignant comedy, the most successful non-American film in its native Argentina last year. We have to wait the length of the film for the opening scene - among the most outrageous ever shot - to be explained but it's a gently comic and rueful ride.
Darin plays Roberto, the lugubrious proprietor of a hardware store, who spends his days counting the screws in packets and giving the supplier a rocket when they don't tally, and his evenings clipping absurdly improbable stories from the newspaper, perhaps to sustain his belief that life is a series of random accidents.
When a Chinese man, Jun (Huang) quite literally lands in front of him one afternoon, Roberto is not impressed. Neither speaks a word of the other's language and Roberto's steadily more frantic attempts to ditch Jun - with the man's uncle; at the Chinese embassy; on the footpath in Chinatown - never seem to work out.
It falls mostly to Darin to sustain the odd-couple story that plays out, because we can't understand a word Jun says until the late arrival of the interpreter implied by the title. As they sit and talk and the two men's back stories come into focus, the world becomes simultaneously more intimate and more expansive.
Some reviewers have argued that subtitling Roberto and not Jun marginalises the latter character, a view that misses the film's point by a striking margin. For its original audience, only Jun is unintelligible in his native language; it is Roberto's - and thus our - process of coming to understand him that is the business of a charming little movie.
Cast: Ricardo Darin, Huang Sheng Huang, Muriel Santa Ana
Director: Sebastian Borensztein
Running time: 90 mins
Rating: M (offensive language, sexual references) In Spanish and Mandarin with English subtitles
Verdict: Sweet and sour
-TimeOutBy Peter Calder Email Peter