When Elder is on the receiving end of a beating, it is Armando who takes him in and cares for him and slowly a relationship develops as Elder finds he has more in common than he dreamed of with the older man. Thus far, From Afar has been as formal and buttoned down as its lead protagonist. The use of shallow focus to pick out a character and leaves everything else a blur feels like an overly literal depiction of alienation. The urban cacophony of Caracas, the traffic, latent violence and street noise contrast with the stuffy browns of Armando's well-furnished but lifeless apartment. In a brief trip out of the city to the shore, the limpid sea air and the glorious sunshine comes as an immediate relief after the cluttered urban sprawl. Yet, the huge waves crashing in and thundering on the soundtrack are a foreboding of more violence to come as a murder plot is first mooted. The unlikely romance developing between Elder and Armando, with their polar opposites of class and lived experience, and the significant age gap is reminiscent of French film Untouchables.
The more conventional thriller element demands that the transformation from enmity to something like love is too swiftly accomplished to be properly convincing. In particular, a trip to a party for Elder's cousin looks foolhardy considering the suspicions it arouses and Elder's own initial homophobia. It could be argued that his street smarts are trumped by his need for human warmth, but Armando doesn't really do human warmth. Vigas keeps his audience at arm's length and it's no surprise that the director identifies more readily with the watcher than the watcher. Castro adds to his gallery of lonely outsiders from Tony Manero to Post Mortem, but there is a sense that he might be too snugly situated in his own discomfort zone. Silva has the harder task as his character transforms and he imbues Elder with a bruised affection.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty