End of the Century is an intimate gay love story set in Barcelona, and the debut feature from Argentinian director Lucio Castro. The filmmaker’s career has featured a string of short films, the latest of which Trust Issues was shown at Cannes. While he is indeed taking a leap by going into full-length, the movie feels like a gradual natural progression for the director.
There are minimal characters to keep the budget down, the shots are simplistic, and the film has a concise runtime of 84 minutes. But Castro does not let this inhibit his movie as he succeeds with a tight script and engaging storyline.
The film begins with the character Ocho (Juan Berberini), a poet from Argentina who resides in New York, as he visits Barcelona on a solo trip. There is no dialogue for the first ten minutes, just Ocho as he settles into his Air BnB, does some sightseeing, eats, looks for sex on Grindr, fails and goes to bed.
This minimalistic beginning, while not entirely obvious at the start, is very purposefully done to tie in with themes of isolation and emptiness which come to the fore at the film’s end. It also gives the audience time and space to collect their own thoughts, form ideas, and process. Enter Javi (Ramon Pujol), a local man of similar age, who Ocho has spotted a couple of times before inviting him up to his apartment.
There they begin a relationship, or do they? Have they already encountered each other before? They meet again for wine and cheese in a beautiful shot looking over the city and engage in a pivotal conversation which the movie revolves around. There are time shifts and we are also introduced to Sonia played by the well-known Argentinian actress Mía Maestro, who starred in the Twilight series and is a long-time friend of Castro.
The conclusion of the film is clever, rewarding, and ambiguous. It left me thinking for days after as to what was the true ending, trying to find clues in small pieces of symbolism such as a Kiss t-shirt and the contents of a fridge. Regardless of what really happened between Ocho and Javi, the themes of emptiness and regret are strong, as is the question of what if?
Comparisons have been made with Moonlight and Call Me by Your Name, and I shall add God’s Own Country to that list also. While not quite as strong as those three, End of the Century holds its own in the rank of late in the 2010s gay movies. It’s a good opener for Luis Castro, whose output will only grow stronger with a bigger budget (he has two more screenplays written that were too expensive to produce), a greater understanding of his craft and hopefully a wider audience.