The Paranoids is a time capsule. First released in 2008, it has taken ten long years for Director Gabriel Medina’s first feature to reach the UK, but despite its age this independent Argentinian film surprised me more than once.
So, it’s 2008. The Paranoids (or Los Paranoicos if you want film buff brownie points) tells that story of Luciano Gauna, an extremely introverted wannabe scriptwriter who makes a living dressing up for children’s birthday parties. After his massively successful childhood friend, Manuel, returns home to recreate the success of his eponymous television show with his girlfriend, Sofia, Luciano must confront the incredibly uncomfortable prospect of interacting with an old friend who has attained a much higher level of success than he has.
A large part of the film is about fear. Luciano is afraid of risk, as evidenced by his lack of progress on his writing work. Daniel Hendler’s performance as Luciano is so realistic, and no doubt eerily familiar to many. That’s why it’s so rewarding when we glimpse who he is behind the mostly-silent mask, which is often brought out by music. Punchy rock songs appear to elevate proceedings, and Luciano himself (and let him show off some ground-breaking dance moves), but other than those occasions he remains fearful and withdrawn.
We stay with Luciano’s viewpoint for the entire film, a decision that means we never meander with other plot threads; a feat which probably couldn’t have been pulled off with much success due to the film’s brisk 98-minute runtime. However, this also means that we spend as much time as possible with the character, thus making his arc even more satisfying. His successful friend, Manuel, is a nice guy aside from that unintended patronisation which people in his position are wont to do. He tries to help Luciano both in a professional and social senses, but Luciano’s nature often contributes to some less-than-successful results.
The Paranoids is billed as a comedy but there’s a love story here, too. Manuel has brought along his girlfriend Sofia, to assist in the production of his TV show. Although she is initially icy towards Luciano, we watch as her relationship with him progresses and she finds herself drawn to how utterly unlike her current boyfriend he is. This change is also incredibly subtle; there’s no specific moment where her gaze softens, and a heavenly choir plays while Luciano is bathed in light. The film uses as many seconds of that short runtime as it can to show their interactions, and how Luciano desperately wants to have what comes so naturally to Manuel; female attention, financial security, a job he enjoys, and a more active social circle.
It’s quite a dark film, too, more in the lighting sense than the tone sense (although there are a couple of dream sequences which get very Twin Peaksy). I can’t seem to recall many significant scenes which took place in the day, with much of the action confined to Luciano’s grimy apartment. There were also a couple of shots which made me grin, which you’ll know when you see. It’s a slow-burning, at times funny drama which tells an ordinary tale and attempts to do something different with a (sadly) familiar situation.