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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed Review

Lines between reality and fiction are blurred in Hernán Rosselli’s fascinating Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed.

Director: Hernán Rosselli
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 100′
Cannes Premiere: May 16, 2024
Release Date: TBA

A working-class suburb in Buenos Aires. An underground lottery business has been run for decades in this cul-de-sac of identical-looking homes, with daughter Maribel (Maribel Felpeto) and mother Alejandra (Alejandra Cánepa) taking over following the death of father/figurehead Hugo (Hugo Felpeto).

Business is booming, with Maribel working alongside several clerks to log bets. But things have recently become tense. Rumour has it that the police have raided similar operations (albeit with some warning), and Maribel and Alejandra are now trying to sort things out. That includes dealing with Hugo’s secret money accounts. However, after gaining access to her late father’s computer and Facebook account, Maribel discovers a deep secret that changes everything she knows about her family. A secret she will investigate with her friend Juliana (Juliana Inae Risso).

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed (Algo viejo, algo nuevo, algo prestado) is the third feature from Hernán Rosselli, an Argentinian filmmaker who is also a professor and runs the film publication Las Naves. The concept here is ingenious. Maribel Felpeto was Rosselli’s real-life childhood neighbour and provided him with old family videos shot by Hugo. She also agreed to star in the resulting film Rosselli created alongside the rest of her family. It is a fascinating piece of context, and the writer/co-editor/director has repurposed this old footage of Hugo and Alejandra from the ‘80s and ‘90s in an intriguing way.

It is the storytelling equivalent of double exposure, with Rosselli overlaying a crime fiction bookmaker story onto the home movies of this real-life family. When this footage is shown, Mirablel’s narration recounts her family’s history, beginning with how a young Alejandra and Hugo first met and fell in love. At first, he told her he was a courier, though Alejandra soon realised he was a bookie and ended up helping with the numbers. Then the story progresses to their wedding (and a figure whose death Hugo may have played a part in on the same day) and Mirabel’s early childhood to Hugo becoming the head of this lotto empire.

The closest point of reference would be Alonso Ruizpalacios’ A Cop Movie, which managed to be a police drama, a documentary and a featurette all in one. And like that film, Something Old blurs the lines between reality and fiction frequently. There are flashes of a mafia film too. The way Alejandra runs this operation with Mirabel and her trusted group is like a don, as she threatens those who step into their territory. But the comparisons made to The Sopranos or Goodfellas make the most sense when seeing the familiar relationships between the group. They regularly spend time together, celebrating birthdays and eating sushi. This camaraderie becomes a big part of the film’s natural realist tone, also seen in the conversations between characters (and how, in nightclub scenes, these are drowned out by the loud music).

A man lies in bed checking his phone and a woman sits on the bed too smoking a cigarette in the film Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed (36 Caballos / Cannes Film Festival)

Just as important to Something Old’s realism is how these moments are captured in still and compact frames. Sometimes, shots focus on one person in a medium close-up. Most of the time, the camera is observing these characters like a fly on the wall. Moreover, Rosselli and Joaquin Neira (credited as a DP alongside Hugo Felpeto) adopt various types of images. Alongside the home movies, there is security camera footage from multiple angles, 360° shots and even a shot of an X-ray scanner. Rosselli clearly relishes showing his film through different lenses. Sometimes literally – one scene begins and ends with a fish-eye lens from a bird’s eye view.

Eventually, Something Old’s realism starts to wear on you. Whilst its mundane naturalism immerses you to a degree, there is also not much to a plot that seems to repeat itself at points. Combined with the slow and subtle pacing, it means the film gradually peters out. But although the narrative is light in terms of narrative, it is dense everywhere else. Take the soundscape, where the score – blippy electric versions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s compositions – is layered over a swirl of lotto numbers repeated by different people. Add that to the imagery, and you get a sense of how Rosselli makes this film unique. 

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed is worth a watch for how it bends the documentary form, distorting the context of real footage to interrogate the notions of technology and memory. Old technology is abundant in this bookmaker world, from the sound of dial-up modems to the VHS camcorder that captured all those home movies. In one of her early voiceovers, Maribel says her family were the first in her neighbourhood to get one, and it allows her (and us) to revisit her family as they once were. However, that also has a darker side.

Recalling how her father didn’t like talking about the past, Maribel recounts what her grandmother once said to him: “Never retrace your steps; you could burn your feet and never be able to walk again.” Something Old is a film about how the past can burn you. How memories can bring up painful emotions and truths – and how technology can rekindle them.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2024, at the Quinzaine des Realisateurs. Read our list of 20 films to watch at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival!

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