Empty Nest Details Domestic Minutiae
Several years ago, the gifted Argentine writer-director and Jewish worrier Daniel Burman, then aged 34, remarked in an interview that he was already fretting about being abandoned by his toddler children. In his new film, the dreaded day has arrived—or has it? Empty Nest seems to tell the tale of a mid-life crisis endured by a comfortably situated intellectual couple when the last of their three children emigrates to Israel with her new husband. The mother, Martha (All About My Mother's Cecilia Roth), throws herself into a frenzy of activity, while her spouse, Leonardo (Oscar Martínez), a stalled playwright, retreats into contemplation of his accumulated fears, frustrations, and desires with dubious help from a bearded sage (Arturo Goetz) who specializes in Alzheimer's disease. Like all of Burman's existential comedies, Empty Nest comes thickly and pleasurably detailed with the minutiae of domesticity. Yet Burman toys mischievously with the way that dreams move in to help us cope with—or avoid—the impossible changes that take us by surprise even though we've anticipated them for years. Dark and light invariably go hand in hand in Burman's work, but this tender, goofily circular portrait of how we fill up the cavernous space once occupied by children begins and ends, beautifully, with an image of a man and a woman floating head to head on water—hapless, helpless, happy.
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