Back to Stay

Marked by a trio of nuanced performances and exquisitely understated storytelling, this top-prizewinner from last year's Locarno Film Festival portrays three young sisters adjusting to the absence of their recently deceased grandmother. Oldest child Marina, middle child Sofia, and young Violeta still occupy the late matriarch's large house in a quiet Buenos Aires neighborhood, coping with private grief while attempting, often in vain, to reach out to one another. First-time director Milagros Mumenthaler captures the listlessness of mourning as well as the physical sense of absence left in the wake of a departed family member, as the sisters explore impassively the spaces and objects in the house that were previously off-limits to them. Like fellow Argentine filmmaker Lucretia Martel, Mumenthaler sensitively portrays the uneasy transition from female adolescence to adulthood and the fluid boundary between familial intimacy and secrecy. Her talent for evoking mood and atmosphere is similarly prodigious, with the house essentially comprising a fourth member of the family. Drawing the viewer deep into a world that exists within four walls, Back to Stay's strong sense of place and complicated sibling dynamics linger long after the film is over and signal the emergence of the Argentine New Wave's latest promising filmmaker.

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