Very few film genres are as strictly structured and as often cliché-filled as romantic comedies. However, with one new romantic comedy seemingly hitting theaters and film festivals every other week, it’s also one of the most popular and financially viable film genres around. But what happens when this genre actually breaks its own mold? What happens when a fresh new voice from an ever rewarding foreign film landscape takes to the genre and produces something entirely his or her own? Well, that’s Rezeta.
Arriving at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, the picture comes to us from director Fernando Frias, and tells the tale of a young model as she arrives in Mexico City with the hopes of finally finding a home and some regular work. We are ostensibly introduced to her during an audition, in which a director screams at her and a trio of other women directions as they dance. She is seen as being somewhat of a guarded woman, with stunning beauty and yet something blocking her from truly opening up to the viewer. And oddly enough, that’s very much the manner in which this story is told, and very much the film’s inherent beauty.
Rezeta Veliu stars as the titular lead, a breathtaking model who ultimately falls into the arms of her polar opposite, the anarchic trailer-cleaner-by-day-punk-rocker-by-night Alex (Roger Mendoza) who is as at home in a dingy bar with his sleeveless shirt reading “EYEHATEGOD” as Rezeta does at a party of faux-intellectuals, the normal type of crew she runs with. And yet, the two hit it off and become an oddly beautiful and deliciously layered couple. The film’s greatest attribute is truly the chemistry between Veliu and Mendoza, a pair that despite being at odds in many ways, feels deceptively real and very much appear to be one that fit perfectly together. Like two oddly shaped puzzle pieces that you smash together in hopes of finishing the portrait. Veliu is great here as the soft spoken Rezeta, but her story feels like a run of the mill tale of a fish out of water, until Mendoza arrives and helps liven the picture up. The scenes the two share together, backed by a hell of a soundtrack, are evocative and really quite engrossing.
Director Frias also helps elevate with a camera that is both intimate and rich, while also sometimes not being truly comfortable to let the viewer in all the way. There is one scene in particular, one of the film’s major dramatic beats near the end of the film, where we see Rezeta talking to a man, but barely, as there is a railing blocking our view and house music hindering our hearing. With things like neo-realism and modern independent, mumblecore, cinema being a clear influence, the film is very much a lively picture stylistically, with a natural color palette and a camera that is hell bent on showing the performances to be the real stunners they truly are.
Overall, while Frias’ film doesn’t say much new in the way of modern relationships (it is still very much structured stereotypically and thematically straight forward), the way in which it goes about saying it is deeply rewarding. With superb performances, a soundtrack as energetic as the camerawork, and director with a fresh new take on a tired genre, this is one of Slamdance 2014’s crowning gems.