Excellent acting frames a hard-hitting story on the seamy side of politics and university relationships in Argentina's The Student, screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
What The Ides of March does for American politics, The Student does for Argentinean school politics. Evoking the same betrayal and naivete themes as George Clooney's upcoming film, The Student instead focuses on a Buenos Aires university and its students' mission to reform its mangled academic system. It brilliantly exposes the passion Latin American students have for politics, even if The Student lags painfully in the second half.
Roque (Estaban Lamothe) is bored by his classes but excited when activists take the cafeteria stage to decry the sorry state of the university. The film chronicles not only his hunger to join student politics by aligning himself with the right agitators, but also his voracious sexual appetite, as if he's a Kennedy in the making. He does have the charm and a way with words, so it's compelling to watch Lamothe fit so snugly in a role that seemed born for him.
Esteban Lamothe and Romina Paula in the Argentinean movie The Student
Along the way Roque seduces an assistant professor (Romina Paula) and their relationship forms the crux of The Student. But her background is sketchy at best, and we don't get learn too much about what makes her tick.
The action moves quickly in the first half, when Roque educates himself on the pressing issues facing the school body, and it's thrilling for a solid 70 minutes. But the pace slows down in the second half, and tighter editing could have kept the pace at a more watchable clip. Still, director Santiago Mitre paints some impressive shots of a decrepit university against Argentinian nightlife, sometimes filmed verite style like a documentary.
Lamothe powers The Student with enough intensity to make it an enjoyable film, especially for political junkies. The political references may fly over the head of North Americans but for anyone who knows their Latin American history, it serves as a sharp reminder of the activist blood running through the veins of many Argentinians today.
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