Art and culture

Argentine Drama Explores Disabled Youth

Unusual in tone and content, “Simon of the Mountain” is a small, low-budget drama in which the title character tries to find his comfort zone. Unfolding in short vignettes, the Argentine feature centers on a group of nonprofessional performances: independent-minded adolescents with cognitive disabilities. The only professional actors featured on-screen play the title character and the working adults they interact with. The open-to-interpretation debut feature from prize-winning shorts helmer Federico Luis challenges viewers’ preconceptions about his characters and won’t be to every taste. But the intimate drama has definitely found fans, as indicated by its warm reception from the jury of the Cannes Critics’ Week, where it nabbed the Grand Prize last week.

Twenty-one-year-old Simon (Lorenzo Ferro, an established Argentine actor) first appears ascending a small mountain during a wind storm with a group from a school for disabled youth, hiking toward a statue of Christ. Simon pals around with another older lad, Pehuén (Pehuén Pedre), and seems to be mimicking his friend’s facial tics and head wags. Soon, he’s on the bus to the school where he partakes in activities while carefully observing his surroundings.

Most interesting to Simon is the burgeoning, but forbidden, physical relationship between Pehuén and their classmate Lucy, who is cast as Juliet to Pehuén’s Romeo in the school play. A misunderstood incident in the girl’s locker room during swimming class results in a summons to the principal’s office for both boys. There, it’s a surprise to learn that Simon lacks both a school file and a disability card. Moreover, his mother (Laura Névole), who has been called in, has no clue that he has been attending the school.

What is Simon’s story? Luis and his co-writers, Tomas Murphy and Agustin Toscano, deliberately leave it ambiguous. As Simon told Pehuén in the opening minutes, he’s a mover’s assistant, sometimes helping his mother’s boyfriend Agustin (played by co-scribe Toscano) bring materials to building projects. Does he really have a disability? It’s unclear. His behavior and appearance are immature and his judgement seems questionable. His mother questions his odd head movements, saying that she’s never seen them before.

Although he sometimes goes off to work with Agustin, Simon can’t seem to keep away from his new friends, whether at home or the cinema or the gaming arcade. How the adolescents all get around remains a mystery. Meanwhile, a mutual fascination develops between Simon and the flirtatious Colo (Kiara Supini), a student with a talent for rollerblading. One of the most striking visual scenes takes place at the arcade, where Colo gracefully circles the pool tables on skates while the ears on her bunny hat flop sweetly, drawing Simon’s attention from the game he is playing.

Although sensitively shot, “Simon of the Mountain” seems driven by a goal to make audiences uncomfortable and force them to grapple with those feelings. Simon’s mother is unable to acknowledge that he has a disability, much less discuss his new friends. When she returns home to find Simon and Colo watching old videos, she tells him, “I just don’t see you with someone like that.

The narrative follows its characters’ adolescent curiosity about sex and sexuality. As Simon peers over the top of a shower stall hoping to get a glimpse of what Lucy and Pehuén are doing in the locker room, several of the older girls, including Colo, want to see too. Their attack on the door behind which Lucy and Pehuén barricade themselves is what draws the authority’s attention. Later, Colo bluntly asks Simon if she can be his girlfriend, and tells him that it is important for him to be her first. The fact that she tells him the latter while they are both lying in bed at her house, with her father next door, ups the discomfort factor.

Luis incorporates some humor as well, particularly when Pehuén coaches Simon on how to act in an interview for a disability card and when the guys slyly try to use Pehuén’s card for two free tickets at the cinema. For the most part, cinematographer Marcos Hastrup shoots tight close-ups on the actors’ faces, his lensing creating tension rather than contextualizing it.

  • For more: Elrisala website and for social follow us on Facebook
  • Source of information and images “variety

Related Articles

Back to top button