by Sam C. Mac Film Horizon Line

Unmade Beds — Alex Dos Santos

September 18, 2009

A web of tangled bare arms and legs, hands and feet and locked lips; this is the image in Alexis Dos Santos’ Unmade Beds that’s stays with the viewer the most, and that probably best represents this youthful, sexually charged film about (to paraphrase a quote from Manohla Dargis’ review of Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild), cool men, hot women and the hundred and one beds and cigarettes they share. Like Wong’s classic, and like last year’s very similar film, Reprise, the emotions in Dos Santos’ film run high, and his characters are constantly on edge, swooning in love one moment and cursing the very bed they slept with their lover in the next. The filmmaking ably mirrors this; lots of skewed angles, handheld close-ups and emphasis on color as a gage of emotion (so, very Wongian). Likewise the music, particularly Tindersticks’ Velvet Underground-esque slow-burner “Cherry Blossoms,” which oozes angst and churns with melancholy piano and violin, is the kind a teen might soundtrack their life to.

So if Unmade Beds is sappy and overly dramatic, at least its moodiness is authentically recognizable. And thankfully Dos Santos’ film is way too hyperactive and playful to be a total downer: Principle characters Axl (floppy, mop-headed Fernando Tielve, flamboyant and resembling a young Diego Luna) and Vera (impossibly gorgeous Deborah Francois) may not have much money, and they may find their respective lives to be empty and directionless on occasion. But they have way too much fun, rushing from nightclubs to bedrooms and flop houses in a pulsating and alive London populated with like-minded disaffected youths, to get themselves down for too long. Less effective than the style, the attitude and energy in “Unmade Beds” are the characters themselves, too flat and uncomplex to be as engaging as the film that supports them. This makes the parallel line which connects them, their shared status as immigrants, more of a fun fact than a defining element of their persona. Further, it makes their respective story lines less fulfilling: Axl searches for the father he never knew and Vera tries her best to know as little as possible about the lover she just met. In this way, Unmade Beds works itself into a kind of poignancy, suggesting that we may never want to know the people we never knew, and that the people we finally get to know we may wish we hadn’t. Deep. More than anything, Unmade Beds is a fun, stylish film, with plenty of French New Wave flare and emotion to keep it restless and alive throughout.