“Autumn Sun” sets sights on a mature love story

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 5, 1998

3 stars

Autumn Sun

“Autumn Sun” is a rarity – a bittersweet love story where the main characters happen to be – at least according to society – well past their prime.

All too often, older characters are treated as asexual caricatures. But here director Eduardo Mignogna treats them with respect and humor.

Set in present day Buenos Aires, the Argentinian film is subtitled in English. But you don’t have to read along to understand what the characters are conveying on screen. Norma Aleandro and Federico Luppi are so expressive as Clara and Raul, that the audience can almost sense what they are feeling.

“Autumn Sun” is not a perfect film. The subplot involving juvenile delinquents makes little sense in the context of the movie. And at times, it seems longer than its 108 minutes running time. But that’s because Mignogna takes his time unfolding the story, leaving viewers with the sense that we actually are watching a difficult romance develop in real-time.

“Autumn Sun” could’ve been presented as a farce:  Fussy, 50ish accountant has to come up with a Jewish fiance when her brother – now living in America – announces that he’s coming back home for a visit. And he wants to meet this future brother-in-law he has heard so much about.  Enter Raul, a lonely 60ish gentile picture framer, who is smitten with her ad in the personals and is persuaded to play the part of boyfriend.

But Mignogna  gives both his characters and his audience their due. Whether he’s framing a stoic shot of Clara returning home to her pet turtle or he’s embracing the haphazard bustle of Raul’s apartment, he captures the fragile moods of his characters.

Of course Raul falls in love with Clara, and of course she shuns his advances. It’s not apparent whether she truly is turned off by his openness  or by her own fear of not being loved back.

But even as she’s rebuffing him, Clara daydreams about what it would be like to be with him – albeit an idealized version of him.

Clara is a strange cookie and she hurts Raul with her polite frankness. After he tries to kiss her, she sends him a videotape of herself telling him why he shouldn’t try to kiss her again.

But even as she’s doing so, it’s obvious that the person she’s most trying to persuade is herself. Thankfully, Raul knows better.

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