Whenever I see movies like Map for Love (Mara Para Conversar), I can’t help but wish that American cinema took as nuanced an approach in dealing with lesbian/bisexual characters and story lines. More than anything, this intimate Chilean film, is an in-depth character study. Roberta (Moro Andrea) is a single mom, who is involved in a tumultuous relationship with activist/actress Javiera (Francisca Bernardi). Roberta is at a crossroads in her life; that complicated transition between youthful rebellion and adult responsibility. At 30 years old, Roberta finds herself co-parenting her young son with his father, while trying to stay connected to her girlfriend Javiera, and finally attaining some much needed acceptance from her larger-than-life mother.
When Roberta tries to come out to her mother for a second time (the first didn’t quite sink in for dear old mom), she is met with a similar response. Polite incredulity. Ah, who hasn’t had a conversation like this with their own mother?
Desperate for her mother’s approval, and to feel respected as an adult and mother, Roberta plans a day of sailing with Javiera and her mother Ana (the excellent Mariana Prat). While on the open ocean, the characters and the film itself, becomes very introspective. The scenes feel so natural and unselfconscious, that one can’t help but wonder if the director just gave the actresses room to play and improvise. While things move along swimmingly at first, conversation takes a turn, setting the three characters on edge and forcing some major revelations.
Moro Andrea is particularly compelling to watch, as Roberta. It’s not unusual to revert back to our childhood coping mechanisms when faced with parental drama, and she manages to very effectively portray the character with a combination of self-assurance and petulance.
Andrea and Francisca Bernardi, who plays Javiera, really nail that comfortable chemistry that exists once the honeymoon phase of a relationship has subsided. Their passion for each other, more of a smoldering one than a raging fire. Their push and pull is fascinating to watch. In a scene where the two characters run lines from Othello is one of the highlights of the film. Shakespeare. Still sexy.
Map for Love is not an epic love story. It’s really more about opening up, and letting go. In particular, when the ties that bind us feel more like anchors dragging us to the bottom of the ocean.