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End of the Century

Fin de Siglo (End of the Century)

The first ten, dialogue-free minutes are devoted to observing Ocho (Juan Barberini), an Argentine poet on holiday in Barcelona, wandering aimlessly through the city. Ocho will later claim to have ended, or at least put on hold, a 20-year relationship because he missed "being alone," but these early scenes make it clear that his newfound solitude brings him no joy, perhaps having forgotten how to be by himself.

Javi (Ramon Pujol), who almost always wears a Kiss t-shirt, catches Ocho's eye. The two meet briefly on a beach, but they don't exchange a word until shortly after Ocho sees him from the balcony of his airbnb, invites him up and, following a short conversation, has sex with him.

After sex, they have a proper conversation, in an uninterrupted shot in which they eat cheese, drink wine and, with a magnificent view in the background, talk at length about love and life. The dialogue flows so naturally and organically that Ocho exclaims: “I feel as if I already knew you”, to which Javi replies, as if it were a matter of course: “Of course we already knew each other”.

We then see an extended flashback to when Ocho originally met Javi two decades prior. In a nutshell, they share a Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight-type experience; they walk around the city, go to museums, get drunk on box wine and tequila, dance and kiss. Eventually, the two went their separate ways then, and will go their separate ways now. Alone again, Ocho has a prolonged fantasy wherein he pictures what his life might have been like if he and Javi had stayed together.

(At first it’s not very clear how far back in time we have gone; it's only until they mention that Javi is working on a documentary about the millennium that we get a precise idea. The filmmakers make no visible effort to 'rejuvenate' their characters in the 'past,' or 'age' them in the 'present', neither digitally nor with makeup. This is the same approach that Spike Lee followed in Da 5 Bloods, and it’s the right choice; since the characters are reminiscing, it’s not at all far-fetched that they give their younger selves the same face they see everyday in the mirror)

Now, about two-thirds of this film consist of one flashbacks and one dreamlike sequence, but this is by no means filler material. The latter, for example, is not all that far removed from, say, the final stretch of The Last Temptation of Christ — the key difference being that Jesus still has time to choose another course of action, while for Ocho Eight the right time has and continues to elude him.

Before, it was too soon, when he and Javi were both in heterosexual relationships and didn't know for sure what they wanted. And now it's too late; like Ocho, Javi is temporarily on his own in Barcelona, and has to — and wants to — return to Berlin to his husband and daughter (a point is made of Javi’s open relationship with his partner, so that he doesn’t come across as a two-timing bastard).