out of Five
Running time: 110
With its strong script and impressive performances, this Argentinean drama set in the shantytowns of Buenos Aires is a harrowing but overall enjoyable watch. However, it does take a little while for it to get going and the misfit of an ending is a bit of a disappointment.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Pablo Trapero, White Elephant stars Ricardo Darîn and Jérémie Renier as Julian and Nicolas, two priests and long-standing friends who dedicate themselves to helping the local people of ‘Villa Virgin’, a shantytown in the infamously poor slums of Buenos Aires. Deeply distressed by the intense violence between the slum’s drug-dealing cartels, Nicolas takes comfort and eventually falls for Luciana (Martina Gusman), a young and attractive social worker who makes him question his faith and everything he’s worked for. Officially selected for the ‘Un Certain Regard’ programme at the 2012 Cannes film festival, White Elephant is dedicated to the late Father Carlos Mugica, an Argentinean priest and activist, who ultimately inspired the story.
White Elephant is an overall stimulating and engaging drama with two compelling relationships at its heart. The first, between Julian and Nicolás, is a wholly convincing friendship that becomes tarnished by the two men’s different views on dealing with the Argentinean drug wars and is brought to life well by Ricardo Darîn and Jérémie Renier. The second of the film’s two important central relationships is the budding romance between Luciana and Nicolás and this dangerous bond is exciting to watch, breathing an essential dose of fresh air into the film when war, violence and politics threaten to take over. The Spanish-to-English translated script is also fairly strong, providing the film with an effective dialogue and the cinematography by Guillermo Nieto is arresting and darkly beautiful.
Once it gets going, White Elephant is a rather engrossing watch. However, the first 30 minutes of the film are brutally slow and as a result the first act can be a little testing to stick with. At the very end, White Elephant then encounters another wobble with a disappointing final scene that doesn’t really fit with the tone and mood of the rest of the film.
Despite its odd and disappointing final act, White Elephant (Elefante Blanco) is still worth a watch thanks to its arresting cinematography, impressive performances and undeniable intensity. Worth seeking out.
White Elephant (Elefante Blanco) (15)