Jess & James (2015)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB

Argentina, 2015.  Los Griegos Films.  Screenplay by Santiago Giralt.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Film Editing by Santiago Giralt.

Two young men meet and have an afternoon tryst that results in an unexpected attachment.  Geronimo has a girlfriend at home and goes by “Jess” with his new flame, unable to show his affection for James and unwilling to be tender when they have sex.  James, however, wears his heart on his sleeve and convinces Jess to go on a road trip with him to get away from the city and his own oppressive mother.  The various adventures they encounter include a waiter with whom they enjoy a sexy romp, a magic realist chapter involving a kind lady who lets them stay at her almost empty country palace and the eventual destination of Jess’s reunion with his older brother.  Along the way we are treated to explorations of Argentinean cultural obsessions with masculinity:  the waiter’s father doesn’t care that he’s gay but wants him to keep it quiet, they stop at a gas station café where their public displays of affection gain them a different reaction than the straight couple at the next table, James’s mother is terrified of him getting AIDS and so on.  The difficulties of class difference are also thrown into the mix of a film that, while very well acted, is directed with an absurd lack of skill.  When it’s not didactic it’s confusing, bounding between plot points without much dramatic force and relying too heavily on a terrific musical score.  It also features very little sexiness despite the healthy number of scenes involving physical intimacy; getting head in a chapel pew is the only rebellious fun in a movie looking to buck the system, while the rest of the time their journey is as much a slog to sit through as it is for the characters to experience.

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