At the screening of his newest film, Club Sandwich, when asked about his aesthetic choices Mexican filmmaker, Fernando Eimbcke, rejected the notion that his films have a particular look. “It’s not a style. I don’t want to think too much about style.” His preference is to focus on the actors’ performances and the story. But even a lack of style, is a style. It’s a deliberate choice.
Eimbcke’s filmmaking is distinct; the camera stays still to capture intimate moments and conversations. His quiet, dialogue-driven films were selected to be part of the Emerging Artists sidebar at the Lincoln Center’s illustrious film event of the year, the New York Film Festival. The spotlight on directors in the beginning of their career is intended to showcase their entire body of work. For Eimbcke this includes screenings of his award-winning opera prima, Temporada de Patos (Duck Season), his second film Lake Tahoe, and his most recent project Club Sandwich.
The delicately balanced tone of Club Sandwich relies on a simple premise. Hector, a boy on the verge of manhood, is on vacation with his mother. She is young, has an eyebrow ring, and at first seems more like an older sister than his mom. They spend their days in lounge chairs sunbathing by the hotel pool, listening to their iPods. Hector’s mom, Paloma, is listening to Prince. “Why do you like Prince?” he asks her. “Because he’s a great musician and he is sexy,” she replies. “Am I sexy?” he asks. She responds just like a mom should, “Yes. You are. You are sexy in your own way.”
Hector’s budding sexuality and impending puberty come up against one obstacle. He has never met his father and his mother is his best friend. He has to learn how to be a man on his own. When he notices that he starts to smell bad, he has no choice but to use his mom’s flowery-scented deodorant. When he shaves his faint moustache for the first time he uses his mom’s pink disposable razor. Small moments like the pink razor gliding over his face elicit laughter from the audience. There are no jokes but there are laughs. They come from long awkward silences and short awkward conversations.
Teenaged Jazmin is staying at the hotel with her parents. She and Hector quickly become friends. Hector is slowly pulling away from his mom. The crux of the film is in this painful moment when Paloma must learn to let go, to let her little boy grow up. Emotions are understated, communicated mostly in glances and gestures. The interactions often banal, the hot, sticky weather a favorite topic of conversation. The faint buzzing of a powerful fan acts as the soundtrack. Paloma has confronted the inevitable, her son is becoming a man. But at night lying in bed with the lights out things remain the same. “I love you,” she tells him. He replies, “me too.”