An almost documentary-like drama that manipulates time and memory, End of the Century takes an otherwise straightforward narrative and morphs it into something far more emotionally evocative.
Following an opening ten minutes devoid of dialogue, Argentinian director Lucio Castro’s beautifully timed film focuses on Ocho (Juan Barberini). The New York-based poet arrived in Barcelona to reflect on his life. Following the end of a twenty-year relationship, he’s looking to embrace his newly-restored bachelorhood.
He spots the boyishly handsome Javi (Ramon Pujol) at the beach. Ocho is instantly drawn to him. Despite trying to suggest interest in each other from afar, their misread signals mean they both leave alone. But then, Ocho spots Javi from the balcony of his apartment and invites him up. Javi’s KISS t-shirt makes him easy to spot. The shirt later proves itself significant during the film’s tight 85 minutes running time. The pair quickly exchange pleasantries before falling into bed. Many a queer audience member will relate to this sequence.
What could have been a momentary fling turns into something more emotional. Javi confirms that this isn’t the first time they have met. The film then takes us back to their initial union some 20-years ago. The jump from 2019 to 1999 proves off-putting initially. Neither actor looks any different from their two-decades-younger self. However, the dynamic of their relationship makes it clear we’re witnessing a different era. The investment already made in the characters enables the audience to take a leap of faith.
The unchanged appearances feel like a deliberate device intended to illustrate the film’s thematic intentions. The blurring of the lines morphs fantasy and reality. This is never more true than in the film’s final ten minutes. The viewer begins to question which narrative is their respective truth.
End of the Century opening Boxing Day
In addition to the focus on a two-decade-long partnership, Castro also weaves in commentary on queer-specific culture. The film covers the adoption of kids, the use of PrEP versus the safety of protection, and the AIDS scare that still ran rampant in the 90s. Such notions prove important in the shaping of how Ocho and Javi live their lives apart, how they are compatible as occasional partners, and if they could ever be anything more – or are they already?
End of the Century screens in select Australian theatres from 26 December 2020.