After fleeing to Europe four decades ago, Nobel Prize winning writer Daniel Mantovani (Martínez) returns to his hometown of Salas. Fed up with the empty world of guest lectures and meaningless prestige, he seeks authenticity in the ordinary, and his trip prompts questions about the role of artists and their relationship to the world.
Usually such a premise has the protagonist realise that their old way of life truly is the best, as seen in Sweet Home Alabama. Needless to say Distinguished Citizen is a far smarter film that probes the ambiguities, as Daniel becomes increasingly less welcome in Salas.
At first the way the townspeople are played for laughs is cruel, but they soon come to be presented with more nuance. Similarly, Daniel straddles the line of likeability throughout the film; an impressive feat from Martínez.
He is not the only actor pulling his weight though as Brieva plays Daniels’ childhood friend impeccably by swinging between clownishness and menace. He also has the best awkward dance sequence in world cinema since Black Coal Thin Ice.
It needs to be stressed that the film is very funny. Most of the laughs have an acidic edge to them and so worm their way into your mind to stay. The comedy is also well constructed. A reveal late in the story may just be the most hilarious twist in a film this year.
For all its laughs, The Distinguished Citizen is primarily a story with weighty themes on its mind. It can be viewed as too cynical for its own good, yet The Distinguished Citizen is an all-round solid film filled with both laugh and food for thought.
CAST: Oscar Martínez, Dady Brieva, Andrea Frigerio, Belén Chavanne
DIRECTORS: Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn
WRITER: Andrés Duprat
SYNOPSIS: After refusing big and prestigious awards all over the world, Mr. Mantovani, Literature Nobel Prize winner, accepts an invitation to visit his hometown in Argentina, which has been the inspiration for all of his books.