This artful but unconvincing Venezuelan drama won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival last year, in what must have been a weak field. ‘From Afar’ is loosely a love story, though a deeply unromantic one. Middle-aged dental technician Armando (Alfredo Castro) likes to pick up teenage boys on the streets of Caracas and masturbate while they pose semi-naked. The latest object of his desire is Elder (Luis Silva), a 17-year-old petty crook and gang leader who batters Armando and steals his cash – then gradually starts to soften.
First-time director Lorenzo Vigas tries every trick in the arthouse book – long silences, meaningful looks, sudden cutaways, out-of-focus imagery – to sell his story. But it doesn’t work. The central relationship isn’t remotely believable. Which isn’t to say ‘From Afar’ holds no pleasures: the photography is starkly lovely, the slow drip of information is smartly handled and the central performances are appealingly ambiguous.