On ‘Wild Tales’ and the long tail of falling in love at film festivals

Last May, I was seated in the upper balcony at the Grand Palais for the first screening of “Relatos Salvajes,” as it was called in the program guide, and as the film played, I had that great familiar feeling of falling head over heels in love with a movie.

Now, the film stands nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, submitted by Argentina, and I've had several more chances to watch the film. My ex-mother-in-law finally got to watch it because Sony Pictures Classics sent out screeners during awards season. She's from Argentina, and I knew she'd end up loving the film, not least because of how clever the film's use of Ricardo Darin is.

As the film has screened over the last eight months, I've heard from plenty of people who have seen the film and loved it, and every single time, I've been excited by the reactions. I know there have been plenty of cases where I saw something at a festival, I loved it, I spent months and months talking about it, and then it just plain didn't connect to people when it finally came out. I've had so many occasions where someone told me how much they didn't get something that I loved at a fest, and in every case, I try to remind them that my reviews are never about promising someone that they will love something. I can't even begin to guess how the collective “you” will react to something. All I can ever offer is an honest, clear-eyed description of how I react to something.

However, I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy it when you guys end up embracing one of these films. It's gratifying. It's like you've been dating someone for a while and you finally introduce them to your friends and all of your friends love the person just as much as you do. It never changes the way I feel about a film, but it's nice to see something connect to a larger audience. That's one of the most important parts of what we do. Anyone can find “The Avengers” on their own. The studio doesn't need me to sell that film for them. But when I see something like “Bellflower,” every article I write about that film helps. When you see something that doesn't have a distributor yet, then those reviews absolutely help. And when there's a film finally coming out that you've been in love with for nearly a year, it's important to remind people, to try and give that film that one last push.

There are plenty of times where I'll write about something, and there's no conversation to be had at that point. This week in particular, I realized how much I want to talk about “Wild Tales” when it comes out. So here I am… once again urging you to see the film. Written and directed by Damián Szifron, “Wild Tales” is an anthology film, with six short stories that are bound only by theme and by taking place in Argentina. The opening segment is the most audacious, and the closing segment is probably the most savage, but they are all intriguing, challenging, and masterfully crafted. Basically, the film posits that any of us, at the right time, under the right circumstances, are fully capable of snapping. We are all animals under the skin, and when cornered, we can all go wild.

Erica Rivas gives one of my very favorite performances of 2014 as a woman who learns something terrible on the day of her wedding. Actually, scratch it. It's not the day of… it's directly after, at the reception, right in the middle of all of the celebrating and the family and the friends. It's such a beautifully built story. As Romina, Rivas has to ride this rollercoaster of emotion, and it's more thrilling than any special effects in any blockbuster.

This is one of those movies that is simply better in a group. If you can see it in the theater, see it in the theater. Don't just skip it and wait for home. You want to have a group experience here. You want to hear the laughter. The gasps. There are things in this film that are worth discussing afterwards, heatedly, and sitting in a theater and watching this, you can feel it as people react to it, as emotions rise and fall.

Sony Pictures Classics releases the film in the US this Friday finally. Please… if you're in one of the cities where the film opens… I urge you to get out and see it. There are times where I feel strongly that I am safe recommending this to the majority of you. Yes, the film is in Spanish, but it speaks to universal feelings of powerlessness and class warfare and technological overload. Everyone has felt road rage or heartbreak or the complicated pangs of familial responsibility. Everyone has felt like they were taken advantage of by the system in some way, at some point. Everyone gets angry. Everyone gets scared. “Wild Tales” is great because of just how broad a spectrum of human experience it speaks to over the course of its two hour running time.

I hope you get the chance to see it this weekend for yourself.