by Hope Madden
Welcome to the fringes of Caracas, where a life barely lived collides with vibrant and violent passions in From Afar, the confident feature debut from director Lorenzo Vigas.
Veteran Chilean actor Alfredo Castro plays Armando, a solitary figure who stokes what little longing he still has by paying street kids for company.
Castro’s masterful performance mirrors Vigas’s detached style, but there’s more to this character than meets the eye. Vigas, who also wrote, shares only as many details as needed, encouraging the viewer to fill in the missing pieces. Meanwhile, Castro’s resigned, closed-off performance still roils at times with passion that threatens to break through his carefully protected surface.
Vigas’s deliberate use of focus and carefully observational approach keeps the audience at arm’s length, but this remote tone is frequently punctuated by the brute ferocity of young Luis Silva’s performance.
In a blistering screen debut as Elder, the 17-year-old punk who captures Armando’s interest, Silva is a shock to the system. Primal, urgent and impulsive, he bursts through the screen as well as Armando’s emotional walls.
The tension between Armando and Elder and the damage each may be doing to his own life and the other’s cause nerve-wracking tension as the relationship blooms, and yet Silva takes the narrative in directions that are simultaneously inevitable and heartbreakingly surprising.
Though the film sometimes feels overly crafted, and perhaps Vigas allows style to dictate more than it should, there is no denying the lead performances. Committed and natural, sympathetic yet repellant, the two actors unveil characters that are as similar and as dissimilar as people can be.
Vigas understands the power in silence. His film explains very little and yet exposes much – about yearning, class divides, human nature, and survival. He and his remarkable cast invite you into lives you couldn’t possibly know to tell a story with no judgment, and the truth in it is devastating.