'October': A Midlife Change, Diapers Included

Baby daddy:  The solitary life of a stoic loan shark (Bruno Odar)Â  gets crowded in a hurry after a prostitute leaves an infant in his apartment.

hide captionBaby daddy: The solitary life of a stoic loan shark (Bruno Odar)Â gets crowded in a hurry after a prostitute leaves an infant in his apartment.

New Yorker Films

October

  • Director: Daniel and Diego Vega
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

Not rated

With: Bruno Odar, Gabriela Velasquez, Carlos Gasols

In Spanish with English subtitles

Two lonely people are changed forever in October, a dolorous debut from the Peruvian brothers Daniel and Diego Vega and an oblique reminder that one person's fantasy can be another's nightmare — at least at first glance.

Set in a down-at-heel neighborhood in Lima during the weeklong religious festival known as the Lord of the Miracles, this deadpan tale swirls around Clemente (Bruno Odar), a morose, middle-aged moneylender of a less scary variety. (When clients default, he doesn't break legs — he breaks windows.) Less animated than a slab of beef, Clemente conducts business at his scratched kitchen table, his dealings framed by peeling walls and dingy floors. For recreation, he engages in workmanlike sex with a series of aging hookers at the local brothel, where he appears to hold a season pass.

But when one of these ladies dumps a baby — lineage unknown — in his apartment, Clemente decides against social services in favor of hunting down the mother. Hiring his pious neighbor, Sofia (Gabriela Velasquez), to care for the child, he scours the bleak streets of Lima. But far from ridding himself of the tiny inconvenience, Clemente is soon burdened with a family he never wanted as Sofia wangles her way into his life and his bed. Clemente's personality may be austere verging on grim, but to Sofia, a woman with fading looks and few options, he's a catch.

Far less cloying than its outline might suggest, October has something to say about the emotional and financial transactions of living, the everyday ebb and flow of feelings and currency. The two are blended most skillfully in the careful plans of Don Fico (Carlos Gasols), an elderly client who borrows money to grease his comatose girlfriend's escape from the hospital. Don Fico's adventure — as well as a subplot concerning Clemente's desperate attempts to offload a counterfeit bank note — relieves the film's relentless severity with gentle humor.

Sofia (Gabriela Velasquez) finds her own way into the protagonist's life after agreeing to take care of the baby while he searches for the mother. i i

hide captionSofia (Gabriela Velasquez) finds her own way into the protagonist's life after agreeing to take care of the baby while he searches for the mother.

New Yorker Films
Sofia (Gabriela Velasquez) finds her own way into the protagonist's life after agreeing to take care of the baby while he searches for the mother.

Sofia (Gabriela Velasquez) finds her own way into the protagonist's life after agreeing to take care of the baby while he searches for the mother.

New Yorker Films

Redeeming cynical, passionless men by thrusting squalling infants into their laps is an old narrative trick, as is using hooker-hiring to signify emotional frigidity, but the directors mostly resist the tug of cliché. Unwaveringly committed to visual bleakness and near-reverential pacing, the brothers have fashioned an ode to salvation that, like Clemente's feelings, is restrained to the point of impaction. Exploiting a palette of sludge-browns and mildew-greens, Fergan Chavez-Ferrer's cinematography is crisp and controlled.

It's true that the characters remain vague and two-dimensional — we never learn why Clemente's heart is frozen or why Sofia is so desperate for a miracle.

Somber and insubstantial, October nevertheless suggests that the Vega brothers are developing a careful, painterly style. Whether they will be able to match it with narrative depth remains to be seen.

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