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This year that movie was The Delay, a domestic drama from Uruguay. I can't say I went into it totally free of expectations. I've enjoyed most of the Uruguayan films I've seen in recent years (Whisky, A Useful Life, Gigante, and Norberto's Deadline are the first examples that come to mind) and regard that nation's cinema as one of the most reliably interesting in the world. The current generation of Uruguayan filmmakers possess a strong grasp on character quirks, everyday disappointment, and the challenges of holding down a job—in other words, the nuts and bolts of living that most movies overlook. On the basis of The Delay (which screens again tonight at 8:15 PM and tomorrow at 12:30 PM), director Rodrigo Plá seems another worthy member of this group.
The movie tells a simple story of a middle-aged factory worker (Roxana Blanco, whose weathered face offers much to scrutinize on a big screen) taking care of two children and a senile father on her own. The old man's condition is deteriorating; he clearly needs greater care than she can provide. Unfortunately, she can't afford to send him to a nursing home and she declares "too high" of an income to claim state assistance. What to do? Plá has created a fine aesthetic to portray the woman's sad—and sadly commonplace—dilemma. Most of the film transpires in shallow focus, so that either the foreground or background of the frame seems blurry. In some of the more impressive shots, Plá and cinematographer Maria Secco manage to focus on a person in middle distance from the camera and obscure the spaces both ahead and behind her. It feels as though the world is literally closing in on the characters, an apt metaphor for poverty as well as senility.