Bonsai (15)

Dir: Cristián Jiménez

Stars: Diego Noguera, Nathalia Galgani, Hugo Medina & Trinidad González

Adapting the written form for the big screen is always a tricky business. More often than not, the source material becomes lost in the bright lights; often butchered beyond recognition. Chilean director Cristian Jimenez avoids such traps, translating Alejandro Zambra’s celebrated novella, Bonsai, to the cinema without losing any of its literary nuances.

Julio (Noguera) is an aspiring Lackadaisical writer who meets the no-nonsense Emilia (Galgani) at college. They begin their relationship on a shared deceit about a Marcel Proust work they both claim to have read. Eight years later, Julio, now in a relationship with his neighbour, Blanca (González), applies for the job of translating a rough draft by a well-respected author, Gazmuri (Medina), onto his computer. When he doesn’t get the job, Julio, not wanting to tell Blanca, continues to write and transcribes the story, only knowing the beginning and end of Gazmuri’s new work.

Bonsai begins with the line: “At the end of this film, Emilia dies and Julio remains alone, the rest is fiction.” This is a fitting precursor to a film which revolves around the ideas within Marcel Proust’s epic tome A la recherche du temps perdu. Themes of memory and loss pervade throughout Julio’s story, as his fictional work begins to ape his relationship with Emilia. Is real life imitating fiction or vice versa?

If you’re a fan of Michael Bay, this is probably not for you. Bonsai is a film very written from a literary perspective; events unfolding in the form of chapters and spanning both timelines. All the main performances are spot-on. The offbeat quirkiness is underplayed and subdued, never descending into farce or tweeness. It’s a shame One Day wasn’t handled in a similar way.

Bonsai is a beautifully skewed light romantic work; a film for writers and lovers of the written word.

Playing now at the Showroom http://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/bonsai