A shrewd, intellectually playful rom-com that delivers the gooey goods, Sidewalls explores love amid the sprawl of an overstuffed, under-planned city (Buenos Aires, but it could be anywhere) with uncommon frankness about the loneliness of urban life. Middle-class neighbors Mariana (Pilar López de Ayala), a failed architect who dresses store windows for a living and populates her apartment with spare mannequins, and Martin (Javier Drolas), a Web designer shut-in saddled with his ex-girlfriend’s pooch, go about the business of working, Internet dating, exercising, texting, and all the other time-padding activities designed to fulfill unfulfilled singletons, without ever quite meeting. Shopworn as it is, the set-up achieves low-key tension and is smartly undercut by M&M’s periodic internal monologues, which are confident and open in a way their jittery exterior affects could never convey. Besides nailing the conundrum of living alone in a city—where the drive to assert your individuality is in perpetual battle with the lure of its cozy/crazy anonymity—writer-director Gustavo Taretto has a keen eye for the contradictory mix of bland uniformity and cluttered beauty in the urban palette. (Cinematographer Leandro Martinez and editors Pablo Mari and Rosario Suárez work wonders, too.) Sidewalls conveys the near-impossible balance of riskiness and wariness required of city-dwellers with remarkable assurance, and if its ending is cute and contrived—Where’s Waldo? figures prominently—it’s also tender and totally earned.
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