Intimate Stories is a road picture in no particular hurry to get anywhere. The film follows three people from a remote village in southern Argentina, all traveling 200 miles to the city of San Julian for different reasons. Decrepit old grocery-store owner Antonio Benedictis is looking for a runaway dog, impoverished single mother Javiera Bravo has been invited to appear on a TV game show, and traveling salesman Javier Lombardo is hoping to impress one of his prettier clients by bringing a birthday cake to her son. Their paths cross somelike when Lombardo picks up a hitchhiking Benedictisbut mostly, they go their own ways, following petty concerns to insignificant ends.
Intimate Stories stays doggedly, purposefully minor, in part because director Carlos Sorin and screenwriter Pablo Solarz want to explore the casual interactions of people doing nothing. Benedictis' story is the corniest, as he sets out to prove he's not useless and winds up babbling wistfully to strangers about his long-lost pet. When he's chatting with the people who give him rides, his face shows the subtle peace of being in motion and in good company. Lombardo (the troupe's only professional actor) talks incessantly about sales techniques and reading body language, and works his theories into conversations with sales clerks, challenging them to "find a creative solution" when they say they can't help him. He's overbearing, but not in the least malicious. As for Bravo, she's a little dim, and she ends up spinning wheels for cheap prizes on television mainly because her friends and family tell her she has to.
Sorin maintains an involving but unobtrusive visual design throughout the film, with a couple of major exceptions. When Bravo appears on the game show, she stares blankly into a TV camera, and Sorin stares along with her, taking a minute to watch the studio lights play off the lens. And at the beginning of Intimate Stories, when Benedictis visits the optometrist, Sorin shows what he sees: an impossibly blurry eye chart. The two images might be cues that the film is really about unusual points of view, or maybe the multiple scenes of people bargaining for their hearts' desires signals that it's about what can be bought and what can't. Most likely, though, Sorin and Solarz are chasing a simpler theme, related to the repeated shots of empty landscapes bisected by trucks and cars rolling along, filled with people happy just to be in transit.