¨I`ve got a Chinese guy living in my house who doesn`t speak a word of Spanish.¨
Ricardo Darín has starred in two of my favorite Argentine films: El Secreto de Sus Ojos and Nueve Reinas. Darín is a great actor and he has proved he can do very different roles and manage them well. In this film he plays a quiet grumpy and lonely man whose life turns around when an unexpected visitor changes his every day routine. Un Cuento Chino was written and directed by Sebastian Borensztein, a director I wasn’t familiar with until now. He has made a well crafted film by mixing the right amount of comedy with drama. The movie shines thanks to the original script and Darín`s performance, along with two good supporting performances from unknown actors Muriel Santa Ana and Ignacio Huang. The film claims to be based on a true story, but actually it is just loosely based on an unexpected incident which had to do with a cow falling from the sky and sinking a Japanese ship. This story actually begins with a Chinese couple in a River who are interrupted when a cow falls from the sky. From that moment on you know that you are in for a very different movie, but there is a perfect explanation for the event. The cow falling from the sky is the only true event about this movie which is a fictionalization about a relationship between this lonely man played by Ricardo Darín and a Chinese immigrant in Argentina. Their failure to communicate is what makes this film so funny.
Roberto (Ricardo Darin) is a hardware store owner who lives on his own in the city of Buenos Aires. He is very grumpy and always complaining, but also seems to live a very quiet and routine life. His house is behind the store so he spends most of his time indoors keeping to his self and collecting newspaper clips of bizarre and rare stories in order to prove that life is meaningless. He goes to bed exactly at 11pm and wakes up the next morning to the same breakfast: coffee and bread. He seems comfortable living on his own. He seems to have had a short relationship with the sister in law of the person who always brings him the international newspapers. Her name is Mari (Muriel Santa Ana) and she lives in the countryside far from Buenos Aires, but happens to be visiting again and is very much in love with Roberto. His life changes when he runs into a Chinese immigrant named Jun (Ignacio Huang) who is thrown out of a cab after being mugged. Jun has nowhere to go and doesn’t speak Spanish so Roberto decides to help him. He takes Jun to the address he has tattooed on his arm, but the person living there claims that a Chinese man sold the house to him several years ago. Roberto takes Jun to the Chinese Embassy where Jun can finally communicate his intentions: He has come to Argentina to find his uncle since he is the only family he has left. Despite the inconvenience Roberto decides to take Jun in for a few days until his uncle shows up. This will change Roberto`s routine and affect his life.
Darin`s character might be grumpy and mean, but he is also nice and has a big enough heart to accommodate a foreigner into his home. He will never expect how this relationship will dramatically change his life, but this relationship is exactly what makes the story work. There are other funny moments like some of the paper clips that Roberto finds and how he recreates those bizarre events in his mind, but the center of the story revolves around him, Jun, and Mari. The story moves slow at times, but it works really well because it shows us exactly how Roberto lived before Jun shows up. Once Jun is with Roberto everything changes and that is what makes for the funniest moments. Un Cuento Chino is a very rare film, but a good one with memorable characters and an unlikely pairing between Darin and Huang that works really well. The film has a feel good feeling to it and once the credits begin to role it`s impossible not to leave with a smile in your face. I absolutely recommend this movie which won Best Argentine Film and the Goya for Best Iberoamerican Film in 2011.