Bonsái Review

Film Still
  • Bonsái film still


The quiet understatement of this love story bears endless reflection.

In director Cristián Jiménez’s second feature, Chilean literature students Julio (Diego Noguera) and Emilia (Nathalia Galgani) fall into each other’s arms at the end of a party after the other guests have passed out.

As they begin to undress, Emilia notices a strange tan line on Julio’s chest which he explains is the result of having fallen asleep in the afternoon sun with a volume of Proust’s 'In Search of Lost Time' on his upper torso.

Emilia asks him why he’s only just reading it – she read it years ago – and more importantly, why it put him to sleep. He hurries to qualify, falsely, that he only fell asleep right at the end, which appears to satisfy her. They have sex.

So begins the story of their love, which ends while they are still in college, but lives on in the memories of Julio for the next eight years. It is at this moment in the future that we are reacquainted with Julio, as he applies to type up the manuscript of an established writer’s new novel.

Failing to get the job, he nonetheless pretends to his neighbour and lover, Blanca (Trinidad González), that he is transcribing the novel, and begins to write his own, weaving us in chaptered flashbacks through the fragments of his relationship with Emilia eight years earlier.

Julio’s two forgeries serve as clever metaphors for a film which demonstrates that the art of love and the art of storytelling are inextricably entwined. Julio’s reluctance to admit that he was bored by Proust, much like Emilia’s insistence that they read the great love stories to each other before bed, is a love story in itself, a portrait of young minds in thrall to the idea of romance and all its pretensions.

It is when a battered copy of 'Madame Bovary' is thrown to the floor so that Julio and Emilia can focus on making love, that the true intimacy of their bond breathes into life. This exploratory pulse affords Jiménez’s film a delicate, dreamlike quality, as well-judged tonally as it is visually striking.

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