Mourning Glory

Fernando Eimbcke, Lake Tahoe, 2008, stills from a color film in 35 mm, 85 minutes. Left: Lucia and Juan (Daniela Valentine and Diego Cataño). Right: David and Juan (Juan Carlos Lara II and Diego Cataño).

IN FERNANDO EIMBCKE’S MOVING SECOND FILM, mourning becomes eclectic. Beginning with a crash (heard, but not seen) of a red Nissan into a telephone pole, Lake Tahoe follows the encounters the teenage driver, Juan (Diego Cataño, who costarred in Eimbcke’s 2004 debut, Duck Season), has with various oddballs to get the car fixed over the course of a day. As the polite, bashful young man listens to the increasingly maddening advice of a grumpy old coot, a punk-loving adolescent mother, and a Bruce Lee–worshipping mechanic, the source of Juan’s grief becomes clearer—as does his need for these fleeting, though transformative, connections.

Filmed in Progreso, Yucatán, Mexico, Lake Tahoe consists of a series of fixed shots, in which the movements of the characters are subordinate to their framing. The mise-en-scène both enhances the torpor of the town where Juan searches for the needed car part and refreshingly suggests that the teenage protagonist belongs to a world much larger than himself. In contrast to Duck Season, in which the action is almost completely confined to an apartment where two fourteen-year-old boys have a memorable pizza party, Lake Tahoe expands its slightly older main character’s universe to include a near-deserted highway, a run-down movie theater, and the homes of his newfound friends—locations that serve as respite from Juan’s own traumatized household. Juan must run away from home, however briefly, before he can return and not be crushed by the profound sadness within it. By shifting the focus to coming to terms rather than coming of age, Lake Tahoe becomes something remarkable: a film about an adolescent that’s free of solipsism, a minimalist story about big emotions, a portrait of immeasurable loss that’s frequently funny, a collection of idiosyncratic characters who are never defined solely by their tics.

Lake Tahoe plays July 10 through 16 at Anthology Film Archives in New York. For more details, click here.