Like many people, I watch movies for various reasons in addition to being entertained. Over the past few years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have spent a lot of time in my home streaming movies, many of them indies, including ones about gay-oriented love relationships. Recently, it grew crystal clear to me that the adolescent and young man parts of me, these each being who I once was so many years ago, long to witness positive, loving relationships between boys and young men. The physicality of sex as an aspect of that expression of love has been important to see, though prolonged, anatomically graphic detail are not needed. It is more about viewing a balance of warm affection and passion that matter to these younger parts of myself.
I spent my youth longing for, yet fearing and generally avoiding, emotionally-laden physical intimacy with other male peers, a deep-rooted issue stemming from an unstable childhood that I’ve been actively healing for a good while. My husband’s presence in my life since my early forties has been deeply helpful. But, another part of that healing process has been to watch tender, affirming movies about love between adolescent and twenty-something males. Less often, I have also found it satisfying to watch love stories about men older than that age cohort.
A movie in this category of affirming emotional and physical love between young males I most recently viewed is ESTEROS (released in 2016), a warm and thoughtful Argentinian production, directed by Papu Curotto. The story is a simple and beautiful narrative, encapsulated in just eighty-seven minutes. Filmed back and forth in present day and flashback scenes, the movie stars Ignacio Rogers as the adult Matias, Esteban Masturini (adult Jeronimo or “Jero”), Joaquin Parada (pubescent Matias), and Blas Finardi Niz (pubescent Jero). The footage of the two sets of actors seems almost equal, with probably a little more of it featuring the two main characters in adulthood.
After about ten to twelve years of absence from each other’s lives, previously best childhood friends Matias and Jero unexpectedly meet up in a small city, the name of it eluding me. Matias, who lives with his girlfriend, has recently returned to Argentina after having resided in Brazil with his parents since about aged thirteen. The family had left for there due to Matias’ father pursuing a major employment opportunity. Soon, the two young men figure out who the other is and resume their friendship. Sexual and romantic tension between them immediately returns, with Jero taking the lead on expressing this chemistry, as he had originally done when he was twelve or thirteen.
The natural playfulness and comfort between the two boy actors, Parada and Finardi Niz, immediately sets for us viewers a tone of believable pubescent innocence, curiosity, and slowly building passion. Their on-screen chemistry matches that of the young adults, Rogers and Masturini, and steadily builds in intensity at a graceful, credible pace. Pure cinematic alchemy gets created by these four principal personae and their excellent direction. The writing, which is quite simple but succinct and good, adds to this alchemy. None of these males ever seem to waver in screen presence and ability. They are all well supported by a solidly competent rest of the cast, although I admittedly didn’t feel the need to notice and care that much, due to the compelling power of the main four.
I would add that the fifth principal player or presence in ESTEROS (ESTUARIES in English) is the Argentinian countryside, particularly an area of estuaries that abut a farm owned by Jero’s parents. This is the summer getaway the boys go to and begin to explore their romantic feelings for each other, which Jero initiates between them one evening in a bedroom they share. The estuary water, accompanying mud, and wildlife, including verbal references to alligators (or crocodiles? I believe alligators), which we viewers never actually see, underscores the sense of intriguing, somewhat unpredictable, even scary sensuality flowing between Matias and Jero. The former is fearful and uncertain while the latter of the two is clearly more of an early bloomer with his sexual interest and confidence. Such is often the case between and among peers.
The movie’s predictable but believable love triangle is an added layer of tension between Jero’s readiness and Matias’ hesitancy. The latter’s girlfriend, Rochi (Renata Calmon) plays, sadly, an all-too-common, thankless role of unknowingly aiding him in trying to be completely heterosexual, which Matias is not and never was. Thankfully, her character is respectfully, sensitively written as having an intuitive sense that something is very much not right. Matias is not fully present and interested in her as he should be. And so a classic dance of intimacy unfolds, quite beautifully, with all players stepping along through their parts in a mix of relatable struggle and grace.