While South American films have recently become more popular in the UK, we haven't seen too many Jewish interest ones which is why Lost Embrace comes as a very welcome surprise.
Released this week, this low-key, charming little movie is an ensemble drama set at a shopping centre in downtown Buenos Aires. The shopkeepers who are mainly Argentinian Jews, apart from a Korean couple who run a Feng Shui store are a quirky bunch, although the main focus is on Ariel (Daniel Hendler) a young man who works in his mother's lingerie store and is searching for his true identity. He wants to gain citizenship of Poland by way of his Polish ancestry, as well as finding out just why his parents split up soon after he was born (his father apparently going off to fight a war in Israel). When his dad reappears on the scene Ariel hopes he can get some answers but they're not necessarily the ones he expected to hear
While Ariel's story forms the centrepiece of the film, there's also plenty of enjoyment to be had from the supporting characters, from his brother Joseph, who is in the import-export trade and looking for his own passage to Europe (via Lithuania) to his singing grandmother. Hendler gives a touching performance as the troubled young man, while director Daniel Burman creates a colourful world full of likeable characters you really end up caring about. What's more, it's fascinating to have the chance to see Argentinian Jews and the world they inhabit, since it's something which is so rarely seen on screen.
Lost Embrace has been compared by some critics to Woody Allen, although it lacks his sharp humour while there are certainly amusing moments, it's far from being a comedy. However, the film has a great deal of warmth and charm, and continues to take the viewer by surprise, right through to its rather unexpected ending. As with many subtitled films, it's unlikely to get a wide cinema release, but it's well worth a look if you get the chance to see it.
Lost Embrace (15) is released in the UK on April 28