Todos tenemos un plan (Everybody Has A Plan) movie posterDid you know Viggo Mortenson made Spanish-language movies? I didn’t. But apparently Everybody Has a Plan is his third. And it’s a doozy of a role. Or, roles.

Mortenson pulls a Jeremy-Irons-in-Dead-Ringers, playing identical twin brothers Agustín and Pedro. The brothers grew up in an Argentine river community, dirt poor, running with a bad crowd. Agustín got out, and meanwhile Pedro got in deep with a gang of kidnappers. As you might guess, this is a crime story, but writer/director Ana Piterbarg does not take it in the direction I was expecting. Embedded within this tale of brothers and dark deeds is a surprisingly sweet love story, a May-December romance with a beekeeper played with vulnerability and eroticism by Sofía Gala Castiglione.

Viggo Mortenson plays twin brothers Agustîn and PedroThe movie reveals the story in tiny dribbles of information, so if you’re opposed to any spoilers, stop reading here. But to really set up the story, I have to give away the main driver of the narrative. Mortenson doesn’t play his two roles for long. Agustín is suicidal and Pedro is dying of cancer. Rather than kill himself, Agustín kills his own brother and assumes his underworld life. The movie then becomes a thriller on two levels… will Pedro’s associates realize that Agustín is not whom he appears and will Agustín’s wife (Soledad Villamil) realize her husband is not actually dead?

EHAP_0009_smPiterbarg’s directing is highly-controlled, and she coaches not only world-class performances from her cast, but also d.p. Lucio Bonelli, whose superb photography of the wintertime Tigre delta evokes the bottling of cold light of Sven Nykvist.

Despite the genre hook to the story, the languorous pace of this film is tailor-made for European or festival audiences. It developed too slowly for my taste, wastes time on Villamil’s wife character only for her storyline not to pay off, and has a disappointing climax. The costume design doesn’t seem to fully support the story: the underworld characters all dress like L.L. Bean models. Or maybe that’s how hoodlums actually dress in the Argentine swamps? I’ll admit, there may be cultural levels that went over my head. The movie references Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga’s collection of stories Exiles (Los desterrados) multiple times.

Fox International Productions and Ars Magna teamed up to produce the film, with additional financing secured in Berlin in 2011. The movie took a relatively-long (for an indie film) 9 weeks to shoot, since they had to take time off to let Viggo grow a beard. While shot ‘on-location’ in Argentina, the main postproduction was done in Spain, with editors Irene Blecua and Alejandro Lazaro working Argentina only part of the time. Some of the physical challenges faced by the filmmakers were water, cold winter rains and swarms of bees (integral to the plot, as the replacement of a queen in a beehive is the central metaphor for the film).

Sofia Gala Castiglione and Viggo Mortenson in Everybody Has a PlanDespite some of the aforementioned reservations, as a vehicle for Viggo Mortenson and Sofía Gala Castaglione, Everybody Has a Plan is well worth watching. The genre thriller aspects may falter, but the romance does not. Fans of cinematography should also check this one out. I wasn’t aware of Bonelli’s work before, but now I’m going to be keeping an eye out. I’m also looking forward to seeing whatever Piterbarg and her producers do next.

Everybody Has a Plan opens today in limited release in New York and Los Angeles.