Trenque Lauquen Parts I & II


Films that are often split into two parts are usually the domain of huge Hollywood blockbusters. It’s difficult not to see them as a bit of a scam, stretching out a plot so that you get twice the admission fees for the same film.

But audiences will buy into the concept, literally, for the right film, as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows can testify too, and both Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune are banking on, with both with second parts to hit our screens.

It is not often the realm of independent world cinema, but it didn’t stop the team behind this curious Argentinean production.

boom reviews Trenque Lauquen Parts I & II
So when did Ronald McDonald start to wear a swastika?

Just to the West of Buenos Aires is the city of Trenque Lauquen. It is here that a young woman by the name of Laura (Laura Paredes) has seemingly gone missing. This makes her boyfriend Rafa (Rafael Spregelburd) attempt to investigate her disappearance, roping in Ezequiel (Ezequiel Pierri), a colleague of hers from work.

As they visit the last known locations where she was seen, a few of the locals have a vague recollection of having seeing here, but nothing more concrete than that.

Although they’re unaware of it at this time, it transpires that Laura had her reasons for seemingly disappearing, and they aren’t easily explained.

boom reviews Trenque Lauquen Parts I & II
Yeah the creep asking for a book of historical clown nudes is back.

The good news is that this is one of those two-parters where both parts get released at the same time. The bad news is however, that’s not much help as far as the story is concerned.

Argentinean director Laura Citarella has conceived, along with her co-writer Paredes, a truly ambitious story that has echoes of David Lynch. It has to be said that the two parts are very different indeed, with the first focusing on the story of trying to find Laura, and the second on Laura’s story itself. But both are symbiotic and rely heavily on each other, and it is a film very much of two halves. That said, just don’t expect for either to make much sense.

Having sat through all four hours and twenty minutes, there is a very strong argument for it being far shorter – as in a whole part shorter. There is another argument that could be made for part one being nothing more than a red herring, as it has very little in common with the narrative of the second.

And in one way that’s OK, as it explores not only the possibilities as to why Laura went missing, but her relationship with those looking for her.

The second part is the big reveal, as told by Laura herself, but as intriguing as it occasionally comes across, many may find it far from being a satisfying conclusion. Which in a rather blunt way begs the question: what was the point of it all?

Citarella does a brilliant job of setting the scene; Trenque Lauquen has that quaint, small town America kind of feel, where the community come across as happy and helpful. You get a sense of that from the scenes at the local radio station, LU 11, where Laura contributes occasionally with interesting pieces about fascinating women in history.

And there’s an undeniable air of mystery about it, which will probably have you second guessing, up until a point, before the director’s swerve goes in a direction where you simply concede what’s the point.

The characters are also highly watchable; all of them are rooted in a deep sense of authenticity, with none of them flamboyant or outrageous, just all very relatable, as are the relationships they have with each other, especially that of Laura and Ezequiel, as they are brought together by a shared fascination for a couple’s love affair discovered in letters hidden in books.

So there are enough elements that make it intriguing, and yet the overall narrative lacks any kind of impact. Perhaps its biggest disappointment is that it doesn’t necessarily go in the direction you would hope for, as the direction it does go in is one you probably don’t see coming, which would normally be a good thing, but sadly not here.

Trenque Lauquen is a project that suffers from a director who probably made the film she set out to, with little in the way of friction, which you would possibly expect from a big budget Hollywood affair, but not an independent film from Argentina. So in that sense, all credit to her. It may not be terribly commercial, but you can tell that it’s a film that’s definitely been produced by a director with a unique vision, albeit at the expense of a woefully long running time that audiences will feel.

That said, sitting through both parts, although having moments in both, may not necessarily marry as a satisfying conclusion, managing to be strangely mesmerising and baffling in equal measure.

we give this three out of five