2006 // Argentina // Rodrigo Moreno // November 21, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Gently simmering, almost minimalist, Rodrigo Moreno's quietly absorbing The Minder is a film that demands profound patience. The narrative is simplicity itself: We follow Ruben (Julio Chávez), a bodyguard for a government minister (Osmar Núñez), as he goes about his daily routine. Shot entirely from Ruben's perspective, the film captures with gnawing focus the dull and demeaning nature of living in another man's shadow, forever hovering outside rooms and idling in cars. We learn of economic crises and family troubles through snatches of overheard conversation, but the backgrounding of these concerns highlights the film's interest in Ruben's personal angst. They footnote the film's "action"—Ruben standing, Ruben waiting—and draw our gaze to Chávez's wonderfully modulated performance. Moreno leavens the dreary routine with moments of private unpleasantness: Ruben's flaky sister, his romantic loneliness, his talent for drawing (eventually paraded for the minister's amusement). The Minder rewards sensitivity to fine narrative details and emotional subtleties. When the concluding twist arrives—don't fret, one does arrive—it seems entirely fitting. There's a bit of thematic rattle to the film, possessing as it does such wide open spaces for contemplation, but it only lightly diminishes The Minder's astute cinematic vigor.