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Common Ground
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by Chris Parry

"Behold! A bloody good film that doesn't involve sex or car chases."
5 stars

I can't quite tell you why, but for some reason I'm always a little trepidacious when sitting down to watch a movie from South America. It doesn't make any sense, as some of the best cinema of the last few years has come up from way down south, and Argentinian director Adolfo Aristarain's Common Ground is not only no exception - it takes things to a whole new level.

Fernando (Federico Luppi) is having a really bad year. He's a professor in Buenos Aires nearing his retirement years, but he's still got a bit of time left in him... At least until the government runs low on cash and forces people in Fernando's age bracket to take early retirement - without their full benefits.

Suddenly Fernando finds himself in a quandry. If he doesn't have the money needed to make ends meet, and the government has nothing to offer in support, and his wife's non-profit organization is being closed down by those same cutbacks, what the heck is a 60-year-old to do? After living a life of middle class comfort, how does a grumpy old communist-at-heart cope with living on the breadline?

Well, there are options. There's the computer programmer son in Spain, married to a woman he doesn't love, doing a job he's not real fond of, but asking for help doesn't seem an option Fernando's pride can stand. He could sell the house, but his wife Lillian (Mercedes Sampietro) would be heartbroken to lose her family home. Desperate times require desperate measures, but old dogs aren't the fastest to learn new tricks.

Common Ground is all about change, and our flat-out refusal to learn how to make lemonade when the world sends us lemons. It's also nothing short of a masterwork. The magic woven between Luppi and Sampitero is the kind of on screen chemistry that doesn't come from sex or lust, it comes from life and love. Luppi's character is at once detestable, but at the same time weak and familiar. I don't know about all of you out there in internet-land, but I had a grandfather just like this guy and there isn't a week that's gone by since he left this mortal coil that I haven't wished he could have had one more year to de-stress, look around and realize there's a world past the end of his nose.

Federico is set in his ways, sure, but Aristarain doesn't rush him in his transition to someone different. The sign of a true master filmmaker is when he or she can take a story and stretch it to breaking point, having us one minute hating the characters on screen and the next hoping they pull through. Aristarain paces his story so efficiently, and so enigmatically, that you honestly do not know where the story is going until it's long over.

The performances are sublime, the writing witty, the direction astute, and the insight into life as an Argentinian in the modern day is certainly something that we're not exposed to in our own everyday lives. That in itself would be reason enough to see Common Ground, but that's only a small percentage of what's beautiful about the film. It's an exquisite romance, a beautiful travelogue, a drama, a comedy... I could go on and on.

One thing is for certain - Common Ground will see you look at the issues and dilemmas and stesses in your own life and maybe reevalute your present direction. 62-years-old is one hell of a long time to have to wait before change is forced upon you.

Common Ground is screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival - for screening times and venue information, see the official website at htpp://www.viff.org

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8178&reviewer=1
originally posted: 09/23/03 18:45:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/19/15 Bill Nicodemus Heartwarming and absolutely beautiful 5 stars
7/08/11 craig c brilliant, mordant, fantastic acting and dialogue 5 stars
6/09/04 Braulio & Laura a good film that makes you think and depending on time it can change a life direction 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A (NR)

UK
  N/A

Australia
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Directed by
  Adolfo Aristarain

Written by
  N/A

Cast
  Federico Luppi
  Mercedes Sampietro
  Arturo Puig
  Carlos Santamaria
  Yael Barnatan



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