Bolivia (2001), Argentina, Director: Adrián Caetano
The setting is the somewhat rundown Parrilla restaurant in
The movie opens with a sign on the window “Cook Wanted”. The owner is the brusque Enrique (Enrique Liporace) who hires Freddy (Freddy Flores) a poker faced immigrant who has just arrived from his native
The livelihood of Freddy is tied to that restaurant, as is that of another immigrant Rosa (Rosa Sánchez), who is hit upon by many customers of the cafe and being Paraguayan also the recipient of slurs, that she deals with a calm face, but has none of the wariness of the more recently arrived Freddy. I wondered if that was her “been there ..heard that one before” weariness hidden beneath a peaceful looking exterior.
The restaurant is a place to eat and commiserate and for those struggling on the margins of society in their own country a lifeline of sorts. It is that for the down on his luck Oso (Oscar Bertea), who is broke and almost going under and relies on Enrique for food and drink on his steadily growing tab. Freddy is an easy target for Oso, but also for pretty much any one else who chooses to pick on him. It takes the form of the very telling looks of the guys who are running an unauthorized telephone call center when they know where he is from, to the two policemen who stop Freddy the first night after work, who are openly disdainful of him.
That first night Freddy goes to sleep in another restaurant paying a peso for his coffee and begins another day filled with cleaning tables, working the grill and enduring the hostile stares and words of customers who resent the fact that Freddy an interloper gets to work while they, the citizens of their country struggle. Lest you wonder that there are no tender moments in the movie, there are.. the brusque Enrique while exploiting them for the cheap labor does have his nice side and Rosa and Freddy after a night out, come together in a frenzied, desperate intimacy born of people who are both outsiders in that country.
The movie ends in a stunning climax where all the resentments that have festered just boil and explode in one life altering moment. The movie ends as it began, with Enrique seen putting up a sign “Cook Wanted” on his restaurant window coming a full metaphorical circle, about the lives of those that are often invisible at the margins of society.