Suddenly

Tatiana Saphir, the dumpy, wallflower heroine of Suddenly, has the self-negating body language of someone who asks little from life and settles for much less. Her life of quiet desperation as a clerk in an Argentine lingerie store is rudely interrupted by a pair of chic, aggressive lesbian lovers nicknamed Mao and Lenin, though their political convictions are felt mainly through their refusal to pay for anything. Amid what feels like a permanent low-level crime spree, one of the lovers professes her intense, immediate desire to have sex with the ostensibly straight Saphir, who is at once flattered and shaken by the woman's interest. Though uncertain whether the mysterious woman's proposal is born of cruelty or lust, Saphir embarks on a rambling, episodic road trip with the pair, during which the lines separating friendship, sex, and love get hopelessly blurred. Heavily indebted to the early work of Jim Jarmusch, both for its evocative use of black and white and its tone of deadpan quirkiness, Suddenly is typical arthouse fare, long on atmosphere and fine acting but short on urgency and ambition. Diego Lerman's adaptation of César Aira's novel seems content to meander about while it takes in the sights, much like its protagonists. Lerman possesses an impressive ability to create memorable characters with minimal dialogue: In its first few minutes, for example, the film suggests Saphir's vast lifetime of loneliness and desperation through just a few telling details. But the writer-director fills Suddenly with quirky, engaging characters, then doesn't seem to know what to do with them. Consequently, the film deflates toward the end, relying on a death to provide structure and gravity. The result is a pleasant enough trip, but it doesn't lead anywhere particularly interesting.

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