Image John Harris.
© 20th Century Fox/Haddock Films.
Everybody Has A Plan is a powerful gothic noir tale of two brothers who grew up in the Tigre Delta of Argentina. Agustin has left his past behind, becoming a children's doctor in Buenos Aires, where he seems to be drifting out of his life, his marriage, and his very existence. He sits alone in their flat, the gulf widening between him and his wife, played with great outward chill and inward anger by Soledad Villamil. Pedro is the brother who stayed behind, to live a life of crimes both petty and serious (including kidnapping) and living for the day, the traditional getting by of the Delta natives, often at the expense of the Buenos Aires-type weekend and summer people. But when Pedro discovers he has incurable cancer, he decides to visit his long-estranged brother.
The visit has a simple reason; Pedro is terminal, and wants his brother's help in terminating his life. And when he dies, Agustin, whose relationship to his own life is terminal, leaves his brother's body behind in the tub, and goes back to the house where he grew up, pretending to be Pedro. As his wife will say to him, when he is briefly in jail, and she realises what has happened, 'you would rather be in prison than be yourself with your wife', which defines the kind of prison in which Agustin sees himself.
Viggo Mortensen, who spoke Spanish as a child in Argentina, plays both brothers, but of course here there is an added twist, as he is playing one brother playing the other. It's a brilliant performance, full of the uncertainties that define Agustin in relation to his past, a past he is incapable of escaping. More than that, by assuming Pedro's identity, he also assumes Pedro's choices. Agustin might enjoy the life of a simple honey-maker, [Pedro's erstwhile occupation] - and you might see it as the choice between the mind and the body, the id and the ego, but it creates for Agustin a responsibility as much as a freedom. Agustin has, in his mind, been living for other people's expectations, their dreams, while Pedro lives only for himself.
Because Pedro has been involved with some serious crimes, Agustin falls into the world of their childhood friend, Adrian, played with psychopathic relish and Johnny Hallyday-ish charm by Daniel Fanego. Adrian senses the change, recalling the brother whom he felt unequipped to survive in their environment, and makes the most of it. Also sensing the change is Rosa (Sofia Gala Castiglione), the young woman who is seemingly trapped in Adrian's web, or in the Delta world he, as a force of evil, represents. This is another prison, and Rosa soon becomes the person who has the ultimate plan, which is to simply leave it all behind. We realise this is not what Agustin has done; he has left one part of himself and returned to another, but he has not found a new, total self at all. And perhaps there is no room for change.
Writer/director Ana Piterbarg's first feature is a noirish gem of character study that moves at a slow pace, the rhythm of the Delta, as it were. It's a slow burn, a build-up to the violence that has been implicit throughout the film, implicit in the Delta, which is shot with great creativity by Lucio Bonelli, combining beauty and threat, and always with a sense of confinement, whether it is the apartment, the prison cell, or the Delta itself.
Mortensen, of course, can act in three languages, and the Tigre Delta is the same sort of evocative and ominous setting that the Louisiana bayou would be, when this film is remade in the States. Of course Mortensen won't be the star, but it will be hard for anyone to match this performance, and along with The Hunt this has to be in the running for Crime Time's best foreign crime film of 2013.