From Argentina, My Best Friend (Mi Mejor Amigo) is a remarkably sensitive coming-of-age drama that keeps its LGBTQ themes gurgling in the background, never sensationalising them to make a big plot point. This may make it feel somewhat elusive, but there’s a remarkable lack of sentimentality that helps the film resonate very strongly. As it digs deeper and deeper into the thoughts and feelings of a teen boy, it becomes very moving indeed.
This central character is 16-year-old Lorenzo (Angelo Mutti Spinetta) who lives in remote Patagonia with his educated, switched-on parents (Moro Anghileri and Guillermo Pfening). Lorenzo is skinny, more interested in books or music than in playing sport. No wonder he’s always the last one chosen for the team. Then one day his parents take in the son of a family friend who needs a place to live. Caito (Lautaro Rodriguez) is just a year older than Lorenzo, but he’s beefy, confident and very cool. At least on the surface.
Over the coming weeks, Lorenzo breaks through Caito’s tough-guy exterior and finds quite a bit of vulnerability inside. Lorenzo has a sort-of girlfriend, but would rather spend all of his time with Caito, who continually challenges him to break the rules. Where this story goes is never obvious: there are no major plot points or big romantic moments. Through a series of meaningful events, this is about a teen discovering his own sexuality and learning what that means.
Writer-director Martin Deus has each character speaking in ways that are earthy and real, talking about events from their lives that are happening far off screen to ground the entire movie in authenticity. The way the characters interact is beautifully textured, reaching out tentatively and sometimes running away to be alone. These things pull the audience right into the story, making Lorenzo’s emotions seriously powerful. Watch him squirm when his mother tells him she’s fine if he turns out to be gay!
Spinetta is terrific as Lorenzo, underplaying scenes even as he makes it clear where his thoughts and feelings are. In the school locker room, he can’t help but watch naked boys out of the corner of his eye. And every time Caito whips off his shorts, Lorenzo has to catch his breath. Rodriguez brings the same subtlety to Caito, a young guy with a troubled past. Basically, he’s trying to find a reason to stay alive. So this friendship comes along at exactly the right time for both of them.
There are similarities in the plot to Call Me By Your Name, and the connection between Lorenzo and Caito bristles with chemistry. But this is a far more delicate story. It’s never about sex, and resolutely private when it comes to being gay. Instead, this is a film about two young men who find a soulmate in an unexpected place. And in Lorenzo’s case, it’s about yearning and learning to understand what his heart wants.
Anyone watching this film will feel a jarring jolt of recognition in the way Lorenzo approaches his life, struggling to understand how he feels as he finds himself lusting after someone unexpected. And since their connection becomes something much deeper than we usually see in these kinds of movies, it’s the kind of film that lingers in the mind. Because it’s not just about how our bodies desire someone sexy. It’s about how we need an emotional connection with someone, wherever it might take us.