Hermia & Helena is rather frustrating. Beginning friskily – and a little quirkily – the scene is set when Camila (Agustina Muñoz) takes over Carmen’s (María Villar) artist’s residency in New York, where she intends to focus on a new Spanish translation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Romantic entanglements ensue, both in person and via a mysterious thread of postcards. Meanwhile, writer-director Matías Piñeiro and cinematographer Fernando Lockett have fun playing with the visuals: lingering blurred shots, beautiful blended ones, negative exposure, and lively annotations on-screen bringing the audience back to Camila’s work. The dialogue, ultra-naturalistic in English and Spanish, rolls well off the tongues of the actors, and in particular that of Muñoz, whose sparky presence creates a good rapport with all of her costars effortlessly.
But the film becomes distracted by its chatter and the sound of its own voice. There’s lots of back-and-forth on screen, seemingly leading nowhere, before the plot veers off course to a character or setup with hardly any preamble. The meanderings take in a filmmaker and ex-lover of Camila’s, and although it’s entertaining to have his latest piece slotted into the film, he only seems there to act out a lover’s montage before swiftly being given the boot… Is it here that parallels are to be drawn between Hermia & Helena and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? If this is the case, one of the problems is that these connections are never clear or within keeping of whatever tone or concept Piñeiro is attempting to maintain.
It’s a bloated plot where not much happens, and the only development of consequence comes near the film’s end, apropos of nothing. Perhaps Hermia & Helena’s vague construction is a comment on the structureless nature of studying? Regardless, a firmer grip on the narrative would have produced something engaging throughout.
CAST: Agustina Muñoz, María Villar, Keith Poulson, Mati Diop, Dan Sallitt
DIRECTOR: Matías Piñeiro
WRITER: Matías Piñeiro
SYNOPSIS: Theatre director Camila moves to New York from Buenos Aires in order to take up an artist’s residency and focus on her own translation of a Shakespeare play – but life and love get in the way.