Trenque Lauquen is a garden of forking paths. Solve one mystery and along comes another conundrum.
This pleasing labyrinth opens as a missing-person drama. Laura (La Flor’s Laura Paredes, who also co-wrote the screenplay), a biologist, has disappeared on the back roads of the domain of the title, a far-flung city meaning “round lake” in the Buenos Aires region. As her sometime driver Ezequiel (Ezequiel Pierri, one of several actors who retain their name), and her older boyfriend, Rafael (Rafael Spregelburd), attempt to retrace her last known steps, flashbacks reveal a big research project into obscure women from history, including one who went missing from the area years before.
That search broadens into the retrieval of love letters hidden in old library books, an adventure that blossoms into tenderness between Laura and Ezequiel. Unspoken suspicions dominate the exchanges between Laura’s potential love interests. Neither has the answers; nor are they asking the right questions.
Competing accounts and theories are entirely eclipsed in part two, when Laura and the film swerve, intriguingly, into lo-fi Twin Peaks terrain. The male search party of part one is usurped by female storymakers: Juliana, who hosts the radio show Laura guests on; Elisa, a medical doctor charged with investigating a mysterious creature at the lake; and Laura, who records and recounts the confounding tale of monstrosity and possible kidnapping that Juliana plays for Ezequiel.
A four-hour film told across 12 chapters and arriving in two parts, this epic mystery is a remarkable achievement (not to mention a much better use of one’s time than a certain historical epic on release). Laura Citarella, its director, cannily wields narrative like a magician might, misdirecting the audience or obfuscating. Many reveals, as deftly orchestrated by the cinematographers Agustín Mendilaharzu and Inés Duacastella, remain tantalisingly behind closed doors.
Trenque Lauquen is on limited cinema release and available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema