Directed by Franco Lolli
Country: Colombia / France
“Gente de Bien” has a double meaning in Spanish since it may want to refer to good people or rich people. For this observant French-Colombian drama, Franco Lolli’s directorial debut, both options may apply.
Here, the eyes are put on the 10-year-old Eric (Bryan Santamaria), whose mother is leaving Bogotá for a better job. Since she can’t afford to take Eric with her, the solution is sending him to his estranged father, Gabriel (Carlos Fernando Perez), a skilled handyman at the service of the wealthy and considerate matriarch, Maria Isabel (Alejandra Borrero). In this strange new environment, Eric, who misses playing soccer with his mates, is taken to Maria Isabel’s house where his father replaces the old furniture and everything seems even more unfamiliar. Maria Isabel doesn’t give up on trying to give an adequate education to Francisco and Juana, her spoiled children, who slowly show a contemptuous bias toward Eric. Coming from a much lower social class, Eric never lowers his head, often reacting in a brusque way, and showing an intransigent personality that culminates with a reproachable attempt to steal cash from the host’s purse.
At the same time, the worried Gabriel, immersed in financial debt, starts looking for a bigger apartment where he can live a bit more comfortably with Eric and the latter’s little dog. Lacking the money to rent the apartment, Gabriel visits his sister, Marta, with the intention of getting a loan from her. Despite the refusal, she invites them to her house where she lives with her husband and kids. However, things don’t go any smoother.
Aware of Gabriel’s difficulties, Maria Isabel makes an irrefutable proposition in order to help him. She’s willing to accept them at her country villa where her family reunites every year during the Christmas season. Once living in the same house as the rich family, both Gabriel and Eric feel detached and unhappy. The former ends up returning to Bogotá. Will Eric be able to adapt to the surrogate family, taking into account that not everyone tolerates well his presence?
Equally subtle and authentic, “Gente de Bien” is never precipitated in its storytelling, relying on the sensitive performances of its cast to build genuinely human characters in a natural manner. It’s this intentional lethargy that makes us understand better the diversified emotional states. The screenplay, devoid of big twists, focuses more on the simple daily situations that mirror the Colombian socio-economic gaps. Nonetheless, what we see in Mr. Lolli’s auspicious first work, can be transported to anywhere in the world.