Writer-director Clarisa Navas helms an impressive and highly personal story of romance set in a poor neighbourhood in Argentina
Arguably the most popular kind of story being told in international LGBT cinema right now is the coming-of-age story in which two youths fall in love against a social realist setting. Last year's Cocoon and the excellent – if underseen – No Hard Feeling are just two recent examples. With her second feature, One in a Thousand, writer-director Clarisa Navas contributes another: a familiar yet impressive tale of young queer love struggling against a world of societal pressures in Argentina.
The film takes place in a poor neighbourhood in the city of Corrientes, its story informed by Navas and her actors' personal experiences of growing up there. Teenager Iris (Sofia Cabrera) spends most of her time here playing basketball and hanging out with cousins Darío (Mauricio Vila) and Ale (Luis Molina). Struck by fleeting glimpses of a newly returned girl on the block named Renata (Ana Carolina Garcia), Iris soon begins to form a tentative relationship with her.
According to local gossip, though, Renata is HIV-positive, a status with connotations of addiction and sex work. For this reason, Renata quickly finds herself marginalised by the community, while the relatively sheltered Iris must overcome her own hangups. Moments of affection between the two women are often undercut by Iris’ snapping recoil at the sight of a passing neighbour.
Navas excels at injecting her film with a sense of place and dynamism, frequently making use of handheld long-takes that track Iris as she wanders the neighbourhood. Life here relentlessly hums around Iris as she goes about her day: rubbish being thrown from a nearby window, a woman stepping outside for a smoke in the background. Inside, the conversations of neighbours are frequently overheard, emphasising the tightly-packed nature of the setting, but also the ways in which the privacy that often allows romance to blossom is in such short supply.
As Iris, Cabrera delivers a wonderfully muted performance, able to gently oscillate between burgeoning erotic curiosity and adolescent timidity. This contrasts well against Garcia’s turn as the more forthright Reanta, whose confidence is forged by perpetual struggle. Although the cast is uniformly excellent, it is Garcia who shines brightest, particularly during a scene of confrontation with Iris. Filled with anger, Renata paces towards the camera, momentarily breaking the illusion of social realism with a flash of old-school iconicism.
One in a Thousand is yet another strong coming-of-age film about queer youth – further proof that these stories will never grow old so long as they're as personal and well-crafted as this.
One in a Thousand is released on MUBI on 18 June.Where to watch