Argentina, 1985 (Film Review): “Señores jueces, Nunca más”
Revolving around the Trial of the Juntas Argentina, 1985 tells its true story with wit and heart, resulting in a gripping film that will surprise you more than once.
It’s a story that Argentinians are painfully familiar with and the rest of the world knows less about, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have just as much of an impact on international audiences. The event at the core of Argentina, 1985 is the Trial of the Juntas, a moment that made history in the country, back in 1985, because it was the first time that a country’s military goverment was summoned to court by that very same country, and condemned for their crimes against its citizens. The crimes in question were committed during the Dirty War of 1976-1983, when the military Junta kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of their own people, simply making them disappear and threatening to reserve the same fate to those who dared ask about these desaparecidos‘ whereabouts. And so, not many people actually knew what was really going on, under the surface: the only ones who really knew the truth were those who committed these crimes.
But Santiago Mitre’s (Paulina) Argentina, 1985 tells another true story, that of an eccentric public prosecutor named Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darín, of The Secret in Their Eyes and Heroic Losers). “History isn’t made by people like me,” Julio tells the many people who urge him to do something to make these Argentine bureaucrats be held accountable for their actions. And yet, Strassera eventually gets involved, almost by chance, and ends up putting together a legal team to investigate and prosecute the military Junta – a task that doesn’t prove to be easy. Julio and his family – his wife Silvia (Alejandra Flechner) and his kids Verónica (Gina Mastronicola) and Javier (Santiago Armas Estevarena) – face death threats on a daily basis, and so does Strassera’s legal team, led by the young Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani, of El Clan), whose name he purposely and hilariously mispronounces many times, until he eventually comes to respect him. Because Argentina, 1985 is also an incredibly funny movie.
Don’t expect to be crying your hearts out while watching the film: Argentina, 1985 deals with heavy subjects and is certainly bound to affect you, especially when it comes to hearing the testimonies of the women who were abducted, but it also has plenty of that wonderful humour that makes Argentinian movies so enjoyable and unique. Mitre and co-writer Mariano Llinás, with whom the director frequently collaborated in the past (Paulina, The Summit, The Student), imbue the script with as much tension as there are laughs, so much so that you’ll find youself clapping within the first ten minutes of the film, in the first of many unexpected gags that you won’t be able to resist. Of course, there’s a trial at the core of this story, but Argentina, 1985 is also an immensely human movie that will make you fall in love with every single one of these characters, as you go through the same emotions they experience. And by the time a sentence is uttered that means a lot to Argentinian people, you’ll feel every single one of these emotions even more powerfully: “Señores jueces, nunca más”.
Part of the reason why Argentina, 1985 works so well are the performances. As the leads, Ricardo Darín and Peter Lanzani, excel, owning their many scenes together regardless of what they’re doing, so much so that, even if a lot of legal language is spoken in the film, it never fails to be gripping and engaging. But Darín and Lanzani are joined by an array of talented actors, and it’s thanks to them that each member of the legal team is always believable, which gives the film more personality. As Julio’s wife, Alejandra Flechner shines, playing the character that feels closer to the audience, as she’s supportive of her husband but not directly involved in the trial, and an endless source of much-needed wisdom that offers more food for thought. Another essential character to the movie is that of Julio’s son, and Santiago Armas Estevarena is superb at delivering his lines with the exact right timing, making his scenes not only memorable but also highly effective.
Santiago Mitre doesn’t reinvent the courtroom drama formula with Argentina, 1985, and a criticism that could be made is that the director could have dared a little more, giving us a less “polished” but more impactful film. But this is only a minor flaw in a movie that’s bound to be a success when it hits Amazon Prime Video this fall, and that will charm you, movie you, enlighten you, and remind you that it’s never too late to fight for memoria, libertad y justicia.
Argentina, 1985 will have a limited theatrical release in the US (NY/LA) on September 30 before its global release on Amazon Prime Video on October 21. Read our interview with director Santiago Mitre and stars Ricardo Darín and Alejandra Flechner.