VOD Review - Solo (2013)

Mario Verón (left) and Patricio
Ramos in "Solo" (2013)
I get a little squeamish when gay people are depicted as villains, particularly as murderers, and does so with no greater purpose, besides being provocative or cynical. Because doing so feels homophobic, even if the filmmaker is gay, which I don't know if writer-director Marcelo Briem Stamm is or not, but his debut film Solo is on a continuum of cinema from Argentina that is very open and gay friendly, as the country itself is very open and gay friendly. One argument of a movie's gay friendliness is its equal treatment of gay characters to straight characters, so if a straight person can be a bad guy, so can a gay person. Some examples are Skyfall and Side Effects, but the gay character, if he or she is an antagonist, needs to be well-thought out with depth or have a grander purpose. Stamm's film tries to be that, but doesn't quite get there.

If you want to follow the continuum of Argentinian gay cinema, all you have to do is follow the career of Marco Berger. This film is a bit afield of Berger because unlike Berger, Stamm's story is not about two guys' restraint or refusal to have sex, despite lustful attraction. Stamm's story is all about two guys who can't keep their hands off each other. There is no homophobia within the context of the two men relating to one another. That is not the case with Berger's films. Berger's films are more about internal homophobia, but, at least, the films themselves, as a whole, don't come across as homophobic. Unfortunately, Stamm's movie does because like Gaël Morel's Our Paradise, Stamm's story goes out of its way to make you afraid of gay men and the gay experience, and not just necessarily one gay person.

Patricio Ramos stars as Manuel, a designer at a furniture store who meets 27-year-old Julio, played by Mario Verón. Manuel meets Julio online. Despite his age, Julio has no career paths. He's basically unemployed and is about to lose his apartment. Verón was last seen in Sexual Tension: Volatile, a collection of Argentinian short films co-directed by Berger. Verón was in the short "Ari," directed by Marcelo Mónaco, portraying a tattoo artist who becomes the object of desire with a jaw-dropping, full-frontal, nude scene. Verón again is the object of sexual desire here. His physical beauty grants him a lot of gay men who are interested, but those men are always wrong fits and the question is if Manuel will too be a wrong fit for Julio.

Carlos Echevarría is featured as Horacio, the ex-boyfriend of Manuel about whom Manuel talks during his in-person time with Julio. Echevarría was last seen in Berger's Absent. Manuel's talking about Horacio reveals a lot that helps to decide whether Manuel and Julio are a wrong or right fit. Stamm doles out the back story between Manuel and Horacio in flashbacks, the very last of which is the ultimate decider of Manuel and Julio's relationship.

Mario Verón as Julio in "Solo"
Solo takes place all in one day. It's Manuel and Julio sitting around Manuel's apartment naked, talking about relationships, kissing and having sex. It's a leaner and more sociopathic version of Andrew Haigh's Weekend. It's actually closer, but a more bizarro version of Tony Piccirillo's The 24th Day, in that you have two gay men all in one day, all in one apartment for the whole time and the actions of a past relationship threaten the current relationship. It has just as much a deadly threat, although that threat in Solo doesn't become apparent or overt until the last five minutes or so.

Between Ramos and Verón, I think Verón gives the better performance. Verón really sells a kind of paranoia and mistrust, both in what he's feeling and how he makes the other actor and the audience feel. Plus, Verón is just gorgeous eye-candy. Watching him is the clear draw, but at the end he seems to be the only draw.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains graphic sex and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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