- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

An appealing slice of life from Argentina, “Lost Embrace,” exclusively at the Avalon, depicts the interaction of a voluble, diverting cross section of immigrant shopkeepers in a bustling, low-rent district of Buenos Aires.

You’re won over by both the sense of community enveloping the far-from-stylish — or flourishing — retail corridor they share and the ensemble cast.

The protagonist is an odd man out: Daniel Hendler as restless Ariel Makaroff, the 30-ish son of resilient, secretive Sonya (Adriana Aizenberg), the owner of a lingerie shop called Elias Creations.

Ariel’s inclination to abandon his home and perhaps seek a fresh start in Poland (the family is of Polish Jewish extraction) has been anticipated by the shop’s namesake, his long-gone father, Elias. This phantom left Buenos Aires to fight in the Yom Kippur War 30 years earlier and remained in Israel. For the most part, the plot is contrived to mastermind a reunion that will resolve the wanderlust of father and son.

Although a young man understandably might crave greener pastures than this little mall, director Daniel Burman and his co-writer, Marcelo Birmajer, don’t formulate much of a case for abandoning friends and family. If anything, you’re inclined to believe that Ariel ought to be studying or working harder to sustain his mother’s franchise and its struggling neighbors.

That effort might help diminish lingering resentments about his fugitive dad and regrets about a bungled romance. You’re inclined to wish Ariel would shake off his self-pity in the first reel, clearing the way for reconciliation to the enviable warmth and solidarity that surround him.

The mall also includes an Italian-run appliance store, a Korean-run feng shui store, a travel agency, an Internet cafe and a notorious diner. Ariel’s big brother Joseph and his best friend, Mittelman, are fixtures of the site. So is a sometime consort named Rita (Silvina Bosco), who recalls vintage Marilyn Monroe roles and puts Ariel in his place with a cagey remark about her favorite interval of time: “sometimes.”

Character interplay is Mr. Burman’s strong suit, often wedded to a nimble camera sense while tracking conversations along crowded city streets or keeping up with the traffic flow in and out of storefronts. He also displays a somewhat eccentric spatial flair for lateral movement inside settings that favor foreground more than background.

Maybe this influences his screenwriting; it’s the Makaroff back story that remains shallow compared with the immediacy and charm of the foreground, where blood relatives and retail kinsmen keep an urban melting pot percolating.

**1/2

TITLE: “Lost Embrace”

RATING: No MPAA rating (Adult subject matter, with occasional profanity and sexual candor)

CREDITS: Directed by Daniel Burman. Written by Marcelo Birmajer and Mr. Burman. Cinematography by Ramiro Civita. Production design by Maria Eugenia Sueiro. Music by Cesar Lerner. In Spanish with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

WEB SITE: www.newyorkerfilms.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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