Problemista (2023)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Julio Torres
Run Time
1 hour and 44 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5
Alejandro goes to work for the widowed Elizabeth. (c) A24

In this surrealistic film writer-director Julio Torres provides an unusual twist the story of an immigrant struggling mightily to stay in this country but is harrassed by a soulless immigration bureacracy.

The film is surrealistic in that its eager hero Alejandro (played by Torres himself) doesn’t just walk but prances about. As a child in El Salvador had encouraged his creativity and told him of a recurring dream of him entering into a mysterious cave. America, it seems, is this cave of the unknown filled with dangers.

He enjoys designing toys so he journeys to America, his dream being to go to work for Hasboro. He has a wacky variation for the Barbie Doll and another for the Cabbage Patch Kids. He gets nowhere, and when he secures a meanial job FreezeCorp caring for the  cryogenically frozen artist Bobby, he is soon fired for tampering with one of the plugs. This means he will lose his work permit unless he can secure new employment. A chance meeting with the artist’s widow Elizabeth (played wierdly as only Tilda Swinton can do!) leads to a strange partnership. She needs someone to help her reclaim her husband’s legacy. Maybe Alejandro, despite lack of any experience in the art world, is the one. The young man needs her to sign on as his sponsor so he won’t be deported, but this proves elusive.

There are numerous surrealistic touches—symbolizing his race against the clock to stay in the country, we see him with a large hour glass, the sand falling into the lower chamber. He imagines himself engaged in a sword fight against a dragon (Elizabeth, of course). He climbs up and up through a line of cubicles. Elizabeth’s plan to bring her husband’s art before the public again is to gather together the 13 paintings he labored on, all on one subject—an egg! He even runs up against an absurdist situation with a bank official, which he fantasizes as his knight falling under a cascade of a hundred rocks.

This is both a funny and a thought-provoking film—even if at times you are not sure what is going.  Alejandro follows in the footsteps of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, or the shepherd boy David. They are all against a world about to overwhelm them, armed with little more than a slingshot or a hat and a cane. But add a touch of courage, persistence, and creativity—al of which  Alejandro and the others possess, and you have a winner, as is this crazy film. I cannot claim to understand all of it, but I do want to return to it and root for and laugh with the Little Man once more!

This review will be in the May issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.


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