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It is so rare to see a movie, or read a story, about a big, shy gentle man that Gigante, from Uruguay, has to prove that it is that for most of the way through.  It is only at the end that we are finally convinced that Jara [Horacio Camandule] isn’t a voyueristic creep with mysoginist pathologies waiting to scare us all.  He is simply big, sweet, maybe a bit slow, and very shy.  It’s hard to imagine  a movie like this being made in America with it’s culture of frat-boy frenzy in Hollywood.  Some of the good indie directors  could do a pretty good job of it though.

Jara is a night guard in an enormous Safeway like supermarket in Montevideo. Enormous.  There is a veritable platoon of floor moppers who deploy after the store is closed for the night.  Mostly he flips his 9 computer screens between the 20 or so cameras stationed around the building — watching for theft mostly we assume.    He’s a big, overweight young man who lives with his sister and her young son, to whom he is a somewhat indifferent “tio.”  He sleeps on the couch, watches TV and plays video games with his nephew. He has two changes of T-shirts — both with English writing on them.

One night, flipping around the cameras, and zooming in and out, he becomes interested in Julia [Leonor Svarcas], not a beauty but attractive in an ordinary way.  He watches her mopping the floor, putting on lipstick, flirting with another night-shift fellow.  He even leaves a morose little potted cactus with her name laboriously written on a piece of paper in the aisle where she will find it.  He follows her, obsessively — which is what sends warning signals to us.  He follows her home.  He follows her on a date — and strikes up an investigatory acquaintance with her companion.  He is at the same time, her quiet protector, with a couple of “superman” like scenes which are both comic and let us relax a bit about his potential actions.

But he cannot approach her, even when she and a girlfriend show up where he is a weekend bouncer.  The moment of truth arrives when she is fired because of a labor action, and he follows her after a wonderful melt-down in the supermarket ailes — gathering his determination at last.

The closing scene as he finally makes himself known, on an empty beach, is one of the tenderest I have ever seen — and without the touch of a hand, or cheek, or even sitting very close to each other.  He’s the kind of man many women say they want but can’t often find.  Maybe they are looking in all the wrong places.   Worth a nice evening with someone you care about.

Argentine born director Adrián Biniez won Silver Berlin Bear award at the 2009 Cannes for Gigante and the Chicago International Film Festival New Director’s award.  Besides the comic-sad trials of Jara, he does a good job of detailing working class life, not just in Montevideo but around the world — the boredom, the fatigue, the temptations to steal, the unconscious solidarity of the poor. The nicest neighborhoods are those where a single family house has a fence and a small front yard.

The Spanish spoken by these Montivedians is of the thickest most difficult for an American ear to follow.  Even if you do pretty well with educated Spanish from around the world, this will prove a challenge.  The subtitles are good.  The acting just about says it all.

It’s hard to find good movies with ordinary mortals who have to make a living at the meanest occupations, as the subjects.   Baran, from Iran and The Maid from Chile are two I’ve seen lately.  They are all very good as films as well as in opening up our  empathy to people and situations far removed from our own.  Lack of funding helps these directors find simple and compelling stories, I think.  Not tempted by car crashes, buildings blowing up and bodies hurled off of cliffs…