High Museum of Art: Films

The Good Life directed by Andres Wood by Linda Dubler
October 8, 2009, 10:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The glancing interactions and criss-crossing paths of a handful of residents of Santiago, Chile, cohere into a melancholy portrait in Andres Wood’s ironic and unsparing 5th feature, The Good Life, showing on Friday, October 9th in the Rich Theatre. More understated and less fantastical than Andrea Martin’s Insignificant Things, which opened the High’s Latin American Film Festival, it shares with that film a similar urban setting and an interest in how class shapes individual destinies.

The film takes place over the course of three days, though the amount of time that separates those 24 hour cycles isn’t clear. Wood seems to measure intervals not by minutes or days or weeks, but  by the urgency of his characters’ needs and by the changes that transform their lives. We meet (among others) Teresa, a public health worker who yearns for true communication; Edmundo, a 40-year-old beautician who still lives with his mother and who struggles for autonomy; and Mario, a classically trained clarinetist stuck playing in a police band, for whom expression and recognition are paramount. Each has his or her own constellation of friends, lovers, and antagonists; only a penniless young mother is nameless and alone. All make their conflicted way through an alienating city of traffic choked streets, crowded sidewalks, and anonymous buildings, where a fallen woman is treated as just another piece of litter.

The Good Life isn’t an angry film, though anger seeps into the lives of many we see on screen. And while the director finds in his surroundings a vein of cynicism and indifference, a hollow patriotism and a culture of cronyism and cosmetic coverups, Wood is too compassionate and too interested in the capacity we humans have for surprising ourselves and others to embrace nihilism. So many of Wood’s filmmaking peers take refuge in a miserablist aestetic that reduces everything to a wail of despair. The Good Life is nuanced and penetrating, keenly observed, and redeemed by the belief in the potential for good in us that from time to time is actually realized.

Visit The Good Life official website

Linda Dubler

Director Andres Wood

Director Andres Wood


Teresa and her daughter in The Good Life

Teresa and her daughter in "The Good Life"


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