The feature comes to New York this week…
Nobody’s Watching (Spanish: Nadie nos mira) is an excellent drama that manages to reinvent some filmic tropes into an interesting and fresh take on identity, freedom, and sexuality. The film is directed by Julia Solomonoff and stars Guillermo Pfening as Nico, an Argentine actor who has traveled to New York from Buenos Aires at the promise of a major movie role. Both Solomonoff and Pfening, as well as several other members of the cast, are Argentine themselves and most of the movie is in Spanish, despite taking place in New York.
The mismatch between place and the native language of the protagonist immediately gives the impression of a ‘stranger in a strange land’. This is amplified by the many sequences of Nico walking, biking, or sitting in the city, either totally alone or with the infant son of his friend Andrea (Elena Roger) whom he babysits to make money while the shooting of his film is continually postponed.
This first impression leads us to believe that Nico is just a struggling actor whose ‘big break’ may fall through. We soon learn, however, that Nico was quite a huge TV star in Argentina for acting on a soap opera called Rivales. He talks with a friend about having been followed everywhere by paparazzi and recognized constantly by people on the street wanting an autograph or a selfie.
In this way, we learn that Nico somewhat enjoys the anonymity that New York and the United States afford him. He is finally free to live life as an openly gay man, something he couldn’t do at home in Argentina. Yet, Nico hesitates to engage romantically as he appears to still harbor feelings for a lover he left behind; the producer of his soap opera.
As in many films involving displaced protagonists, Argentina begins to act as an invisible character itself, spoken about and constantly hovering over the plot, but never seen. There’s often talk about ‘going back’ versus ‘staying’. As the plot thickens and acting options for Nico begin to disappear, many on account of him either being too Hispanic or not Hispanic enough, the specter of ‘going’ back looms closer and closer.
Much in the way that Nico himself refuses to accept certain things until the very end, Nobody’s Watching doesn’t fully give itself to the audience until the final minutes, which build to a satisfying conclusion.
Photo credit: Film Forum.