There are those who say that if you can’t keep a plant alive, you can’t keep a relationship alive either. Julio (Diego Noguera), the obtusely passive protagonist of this alternately affecting and enervating Chilean literary love story, is proof to the contrary. He is consistently inept with women, but fully committed to his bonsai.The film shuffles between Julio’s doomed university romance with smart fellow lit student Emilia (Nathalia Galgani) and a less intense dalliance with translator Barbara (Trinidad González) eight years later, when he is hacking out a lie-riddled existence as an unpublished novelist.
The stunted tree serves as a none-too-subtle metaphor for Julio’s own arrested emotional development. It’s a brave irony that a film besotted with the pages of Proust is built around a character who couldn’t be more of a closed book. If Julio is a mostly resistible presence, however, the filmmaking proves rather more seductive: strikingly syncopated editing and a palette tinged with verdigris sustain a mood of droll melancholy, making an elegant miniature (to wring the bonsai analogy thoroughly dry) of this slacker curio.