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New York Film Festival: La Practica (2023) Review

Argentine filmmaker Martín Rejtman is back for the first time in nearly half a decade with a hilarious new offering. Centered around a yoga instructor whose marital separation sets him down a ribald path where he must come to terms with all the changes happening in his life, it’s a movie that’s both tender yet brutal with its characters, poking and prodding the absurdities of their daily lives in an effort to reveal the hilarious and the profound hidden in the mundane. With great acting and a razor-sharp script, the world of commodified self-improvement finds itself under fire in Rejtman’s newest black comedy.

Regardless of his fierce dedication to leading a regimented lifestyle, Gustavo continues to find his plans falling apart. On top of his marriage not panning out the way he’d hoped for, leaving him alone in a foreign country, he keeps tearing ligaments in his knee during yoga stretches. Here, Rejtman’s writing takes on an almost fable-like quality. The more Gustavo resists these changes, the harder his life becomes. Soon, he’s limping from one awkward situation to the next, trying desperately (and failing) to keep it together. The way the film is constructed is interesting, more a series of interconnected vignettes than a single storyline. This gives it an almost docufiction like quality, emphasized by the sparse narration, really letting viewers immerse themselves in the day-to-day, which makes sense for a film so concerned with the human condition. These self-enclosed tableaux also provide ample room for the sharp dialogue to be on full display as characters offer quips that are as funny as they are insightful. This meticulous construction of people and their relationships is furthered by some very purposeful visuals.

Being a film that really wants to highlight the absurdity of the everyday, I’m surprised the lighting wasn’t a bit more expressive here, but I also don’t fault the movie for it. The naturalistic approach also makes sense, and I appreciate the restraint shown in the choice of honey-colored daylight and tender moonlight to paint most of the scenes. The camera doesn’t move a lot, creating an almost voyeuristic feel as we watch Gustavo try and adjust to all that life’s throwing at him. It also allows the characters to work more as an ensemble. Too many films rely on cuts and close-ups during dialogue. Rejtman’s decision to let us see the characters interacting without too much panning or editing allows the actors to use body language and build off one another in a more organic way.

In a body of work filled with low-stakes black comedies, this one stands out for its gentle profundity. In many ways, we’re all like Gustavo, trying to adjust to life plans that constantly change, hoping to find connection and maybe a good laugh or two along the way. Through his journey, we see how much there is to laugh about despite the pain. I don’t know when this movie will be coming out in America, but I do hope you find a way to see it soon! Funny, smart and well-acted, it’s one of those hangout movies that sticks with you long after it’s over.


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