A Map For Love (Mapa Para Conversar)
Chile (2012) Dir. Fernández Constanza
Parental approval – we all want it but some of us don’t get it because of our lifestyle choices or sexual proclivities, the latter being one the more pertinent reasons for many especially when there is a generational gap causing a rift. This film from Chile explores this very situation with a rather unusual way of trying to reach a resolve.
Roberta (Moro Andrea), a single mother sharing the upbringing of her young son Emilio (Romano Kottow) with his father Rafael (Francisco Pizarro Saenz de Urtury), is in a relationship with activist and actress Javiera (Francisca Bernardi) which is currently a little tense. Roberta is at a crossroads in her life but one thing she is sure of is repairing her relationship with her conservative mother Ana (Mariana Prat).
After trying to come out for a second time and still being met with disapproval, Roberta decides that a boat trip with her, Javiera and Ana would do the trick in breaking the ice between all three of them, giving Javiera a chance to impress Ana and gain her blessing for their relationship. But, as they say, the worst things happen at sea.
Gay people facing a brick wall in the form of their parents’ reluctance to accept their sexuality is a common theme in gay arts but Constanza throws a different light on the subject by keeping it strictly between the women, with the only male presence being an indifferent ex-partner and a demanding son who is too young to understand. Roberta’s father is conveniently written out by being ill but through Ana his attitude is made abundantly clear.
The issue of Ana’s acceptance of Roberta’s lifestyle is bolstered by her conservative and snobbish attitude which means resolute denial and a “what will the neighbours think?” mindset. Ana is convinced Roberta has not matured and is merely wandering down the wrong path like she always has and wants her to put such frippery behind her and concentrate on being a good mum to Emilio.
Javiera is a free spirit and clearly doesn’t give a damn what people think of her, as her quirky pseudo bohemian dress sense attests. As someone who designs websites for erotic artists Javiera tries to be philosophical about Ana’s attitude and accepts Roberta’s challenge of the both trip, but her capricious and untamed manner sees her put her foot in it just as Ana was warming to her.
Like the old scenario of people trapped in a lift, there is nowhere for any of the three women to go once things get uncomfortable which Constanza uses to great effect in creating a claustrophobic sensation whilst out in the wide open seas. The irony is that despite being practically on top of each other there are situations which unfold where one of the trio is oblivious to the fact – such as Javiera making a pass at Ana when Roberta is just a few feet away on the deck outside.
The dialogue is very raw and open and rarely confrontational as the issues of the unapproved relationship aren’t raised directly at first. Ana is clearly dismayed by the lack of inhibition displayed by Javiera, who freely strips off then talks about her work in the post-porn industry, just as she and Javiera were bonding over their acting desires, something Ana appears to have been less successful at than Javiera.
It is interesting how a slow moving and sparse film with a small cast and verbose script has the ability to showcase moments of uneasy tension from such minimal stock but Constanza achieves this. The powder keg in this instance is in fact all three women – Roberta in wanting the two most important women in her life to get along, Javiera because of her defiant and candid nature and Ana as the uncompromising stick in the mud.
Standing out as a general theme is honesty and openness which is what Constanza was trying to convey; the lack of extravagance in the production values makes this feel like a very personal work which new the audience are intruding on. There is also a notable concerted effort with not being didactic or suggesting that any answers to this universal problem are forthcoming.
There is an amusing running gag about how Ana and her husband are learning how to use the internet to keep up with modern technology yet seem to falter with even the simplest procedure of sending an e-mail. As subtle metaphors go this is a clever one and is probably representative of much larger problems of the older generation adapting to modern life.
Seemingly filmed on the water (if it isn’t the green screen work is exemplary) the sailing experience is a palpable one for the audience as the camera captures every unstable moment as if this was a POV outing. There is no real finesse to the camerawork other capturing the honesty of the moment yet under the circumstances one can’t fault the resilience and professionalism of the cameramen for keeping their heads when the waters get choppy.
All three lead actresses are very convincing in their roles and deserve credit for taking on such an arduous and unglamorous project, having to be adept at manning a ship as well delivering such rich and candid performances. It’s odd that none of them appear particularly likeable yet we do find ourselves wanting to see them get alone as there is no viable reason why they should be in dispute with one another.
I don’t know anything about Constanza to assume this film has any biographical origins but she reveals in an interview that the gay aspect was a mere catalyst to explore the importance of unconditional love and acceptance in a mother-daughter relationship.
While this may not be immediately obvious A Map For Love provides a stark yet incisive twist on the old subject, serving as a curious introduction to a unique voice in World Cinema.