Social Work: Three Women Attempt to Understand One Argentinean Village in The Lips


With a decaying former hospital as their base of operations, three social workers survey an unnamed Argentinean backwater, tallying cases of malnutrition and how many children sleep to a room. Co-directors Iván Fund and Santiago Loza emphasize the distance between these women and the community they’re charged with assisting: Luchi (Victoria Raposo), Noe (Eva Bianco), and maternal figure Coca (Adela Sanchez), all previously unacquainted, board an overnight bus to the village, where a local government envoy shuttles them to and from work. He later introduces them to locals at a roadside bar. The camera occasionally lingers on the twilit flatlands, but mostly it trains, in hovering close-up, on the emotionally draining task at hand. Luchi, Noe, and Coca trek from plot to plot to conduct extended interviews (the area’s forthright inhabitants play themselves), and continue their line of questioning at a community meeting while the maté gourd circulates. With a minimum of dialogue and backstory, the lead actresses (winners of a single special prize at Cannes 2010) movingly portray the depth of these colleagues’ compassion, and their struggle to maintain a front of data-gathering objectivity. Unfolding in a remarkably organic fashion, The Lips pays plaintive tribute to the work.