Based upon the award-winning cult novella of the same name by Alejandro Zambra, fellow countryman Chilean Cristian Jimenez has described his second feature, Bonsai, as a tribute to the art of lying.
The film centres on Julio (Diego Noguera) an introvert who wants to be a writer, however when he is turned dow by Gazmuri - an established novelist - to transcribe his latest oeuvre, Julio decides to write his own to impress his next door neighbour Bianca (Trinidad Gonzalez), however Julio is easily distracted and he ends up entangled with his memories of the past illicit affair he shared with Emilia (Natalia Galgani) some eight years previously.
Jimenez uses this device of looking back at one affair in order to kick start a new one with a simple flashback/flash forward device - whilst Julio is an unreliant narrator he nevertheless is unable to decipher the difference between the two source material, and so becomes the subject of his own book.
The profoundity of the situation should not be lost on Julio who we meet first reading Proust, after initially saying he had already done so. This existentialsim will also be lost on Julio ultimately, as he loses sight of the present by focusing too much on the past. There are two funny jokes about Proust at the film's beginning - Julio lies about reading it, gets a copy, goes to a beach to read it and falls asleep in doing so after three pages and then endures a suntan on his chest of the books outline having fallen asleep.
Bonsai is a film about memory and how the past intrudes upon your present and inevitable future. Jimenez cleverly gives the two women - Emilia and Bianca - different tones when we see their stories when with Julio. Emilia is dark, morbid and full of shadow harking her emotional fragility, whilst Bianca's world is bright, sunny and full of optimism and promise for Julio, the tone is helped by the work of cinematographer Inti Briones.
There are few surprises though when it comes to it, as in the opening sequence the film's narrator states, 'Emilia dies and Julio will remain alone. The rest is fiction', and Jimenez joyfully has fun with his free adaptation of Zambra's novella with the arrangement of the film in chapters to make this an objective love story for a besotted soul, who takes his eye of the ball to focus on unrequited love. Not to say that Julio is a fool, Jimenez does adore him and the doe-eyed performance of Diego Noguera is key to winning our affection and sympathy.
Bonsai is out on Friday 30th March on limited release from Network Releasing.