Hermia & Helena

Matías PiñeiroUSA / Argentina86 minutes2016PGColourEnglish Spanish

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The prolific, cinephilic, and endlessly imaginative Matías Piñeiro (Viola, The Princess of France) continues his multi-film meditation on Shakespeare’s comedies with this marvellous riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream centred on an Argentine theatre director's sojourn in New York City.

The prolific, cinephilic, and endlessly imaginative Matías Piñeiro continues his Shakespeare-inspired series with his fifth feature, which is named after two characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Perhaps Piñeiro's most mature and moving work to date, Hermia & Helena is also something of a departure for the Argentine auteur with its Ozu-like lyricism, New York setting, wistful Scott Joplin score, and group of American indie actors (speaking English, of course) who complement his Argentinean stock company.

Shuttling between two time frames and two locations (Buenos Aires and NYC), Hermia & Helena revolves around theatre director Camila (Piñeiro regular Agustina Muñoz, never better), who accepts an artistic fellowship exchange to an unnamed New York institute to ostensibly work on a Spanish translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. As in the director's previous Shakespeare riffs, elements and characters from the Bard's play begin to intersect and overlap with the multiple story strands Piñeiro weaves around this central situation. At first bored and alienated in her new surroundings, Camila is soon launched upon a series of dalliances and extraordinary encounters, including with a mysterious and intense French former fellow (actor and director Mati Diop) and, in a heart-rending sequence, her biological father (played with effortless grace by filmmaker Dan Sallitt). As her adventures are played and replayed against an ever-expanding dramatis personae, each new character variously revealing and teasing out different facets of herself, Camila experiences a constant tugging between hemispheres, languages, cultures, and hearts.

Partially inspired by the director's real-life relocation to New York (thanks to a Radcliffe Institute fellowship) and his work as a language teacher, Piñeiro's latest is filled with delightful amorous detours, dead ends, and new beginnings. Striking a perfect balance between happy and sad, Hermia & Helena is light, lovely, and tremendously touching, and further proof that Piñeiro is one of today's most exciting filmmakers.

ANDRÉA PICARD

RomanceUSALatin AmericaLiterary InterestFemale Experience