The Argentinian import Bottom of the Sea (2003) is a sly little comedy with some thriller elements that perfectly add to a tale of relationship insecurities, jealousy, and stalking, which, oddly enough, leads to maturity.
Ezequiel (Daniel hendler) is a young architecture student, his latest project being the design of an underwater hotel. His mind, however, is preoccupied with his girlfriend Ana (Dolores Fonzi), who has grown suspiciously cold and awkward towards him. In a highly surprising scene, he does find out she has been seeing another man. Rather than confront her outright, he stalks the fellow, Anibal (Gustavo Garzon), an older man with a confidant, though decidedly prickish, demeanor.
Wow, this is a hard one to classify. Essentially it is a comedy, but not a forceful one, and it is stylized with a thriller vein. Imagine Hitchcock directing After Hours, or Hal Ashby directing Body Double. Sounds a little quirky, and it is. Essentially the thriller aspect is another joke, the film reflecting the paranoia and anxiety of its protagonist, Ezequiel, by hitting all the beats of a mystery/suspense pic as he follows his suspected cheating girlfriends potential new lover. Ezequiel trails Anibal's car, like some nebbish detective, finds some interesting ways to pester Anibal, overhears snippets of conversations, and, to push the mystery device even further, at one point, we watch him actually peer at Anibal through a peephole.
Being from first time feature film maker Damian Szifron, as Bottom of the Sea edged along, I was amazed at how smoothly it was going. You know, with a first timer, you expect some stumbles, but the film had a great flow, solid direction, a distinctive voice, and good performances. Anibal seemed a little too villainous, but Gustavo Garzon plays it to the hilt. Dolores Fonzi's Ana... well, I'd stalk her, or sink to stalking for her, either one. And, as played by Hendler, Ezequeil is a fitting sympathetic, clueless, bumbling boyfriend.
But, it did hit a slightly sour spot at the ending. The plotting goes- first we have a brief introduction, then the bulk of the film being Ezequeil's nightlong quest to find out who Anibal is and how far along the affair has progressed, and then the coda. The problem is that the bulk of the film has that thriller element which has its own conclusion. So you feel a sense of relief, only to have an extra five-ten minutes left to go as you see Ezequiel in the months following that night. The coda makes sense and is essential information since the film is about his growth, but it feels a bit protracted. It is a very minor sore spot on an otherwise interesting, chuckle worthy film about jealousy.
The DVD: Home Vision Entertainment.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The good- color details are nice, as is the sharpness and contrast. The bad- the film has a good deal of grain, especially evident in some interior shots. Luckily, it doesn't hurt any of the dark night photography. Appears to be technically sound except for the excessive grain level.
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround, Spanish language with optional English subtitles. The subs are nice. The dialogue is clear. But what is truly great about this film, highlighted by the excellent use of surround, is the score. With a foreign comedy called Bottom of the Sea, I first imagined the score would be something like an Antonio Carlos Jobim number, "Samba De Uma Nota So" or "Insensatez." That assumption couldnt have been more wrong. The absolutely perfect orchestral underscoring has a great thriller tone, jaunting along with a sense of light dread and tension.
Extras: Liner Notes by Diego Lerer, who also, to my chagrin, compares the film After Hours.— Deleted Scene. Brief scene that would have been in the films concluding minutes. it is easy to see why it was left out, though it does humanize Anibal quite a bit.--- Original Theatrical Trailer.
Conclusion: This was a very charming surprise. If you are a fan of offbeat, idiosyncratic comedies, you should enjoy the film. In the dearth of comedic films about romantic frustration, distrust, and heartbreak, I think it is safe to say few hit the subject at the off kilter angles that Bottom of the Sea attempts. Well worth a look.