Peru may not have the same world-cinema cachet as Lat-Am heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, but judging by Josué Méndez's assured feature debut, the country has more than enough socioeconomic discontentment to foment a new wave of angry young cineastes. Set in a sweltering Lima slum, Días de Santiago recounts several weeks in the life of Santiago Roman (Pietro Sibille), a 23-year-old Peruvian navy veteran who returns home only to face unemployment, crime, and less than welcoming parents. His attempts at landing a respectable office job prove humiliating, and Santiago soon sinks into a debilitating depression. The movie's similarities to Taxi Driver (young war veteran, urban filth, pressure-cooker psychodrama) reach a thematic apex when Santiago accepts a gig as a cabbie. Like Travis Bickle though far less nuts, Santiago holds the sleazy world at a contemptible distance only to be gradually drawn in by the specter of lost girlhoodin this case, a gaggle of club-going nymphets ranging in temperament from madonna to whore. Méndez contrasts his protagonist's highly subjective journey with a neorealistic visual style. If the movie lacks narrative originality, it leaves a singularly raw impression of having spent time inside someone's sweaty, ill-fitting skin.
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