Director Cristián Jiménez brings a keen comic sense to Chilean author Alejandro Zambra's contemporary classic novella Bonsái, crafting an existential romance with deep insight into the psychology of love, finding meaning through literature and the care of sensitive plants. Making several leaps forward and backward in time, Bonsái follows its protagonist Julio (Diego Noguera, in a wonderfully restrained performance) in his sincere but deadpan fumbling through early adulthood. Quirky, cerebral, lost, and vaguely traumatized, Julio enters into the one big love of his life lying about having read Proust and oblivious that his lover Emilia (Natalia Galgani) is fibbing, too. Eight years after meeting her, Julio begins another romantic relationship with a lie when he claims he is transcribing a handwritten novel for a famous writer. In truth, he's the one writing the novel. As it unfolds, he gradually comes to realize that he's the book's broken-hearted subject, pining for Emilia, and no amount of wisdom, Proust, or gardening skill can bring back the bliss of his first love. Bonsái strikes the perfect balance of humor and angst, wisdom and folly, and brings home a universal emotional truth-though the story Julio tells may be idealized, delusional, and partially fictional, nothing has more power to move his soul.

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