Privileging mood over narrative and dumb brooding over character, Ana Piterbarg’s handsome, if uninvolving, Everybody Has a Plan stars Viggo Mortensen, in a strictly Spanish-speaking role, as Agustin, a melancholic Buenos Aires doctor who seeks a fresh start from a life that’s become increasingly stale. It also stars the actor as Augustín’s identical twin brother, Pedro. But this is hardly a dual role for Mortensen. No sooner does Augustín’s estranged sibling show up, dying, then Augustín complies with his request to put him out of his misery and proceeds to take his place, showing up in the nearby, if isolated, Tigre delta where Pedro makes his home, allowing himself to be mistaken for his brother, and falling into the latter’s dual professions of beekeeping and kidnapping-for-ransom.
Mortensen has little problem conveying Augustín’s silent ruminating, present from an early scene in which he tells his wife he doesn’t want a child before locking himself in his office to brood for days on end, but even as Augustín opens up to his new life in the delta, Mortensen still seems tied down to a mute acting style of little revelation that fits with the film’s moody tone, but not the resultant drama. Essentially a modest tale of redemption brought about by both the beneficent presence of a comely young woman and a decision to take action against a clearly immoral situation, the film flounders on its insistence that these events be charged with a meaning it hasn’t established, resulting in two skillfully crafted sequences (one violent, one melancholic) that carry nothing like the emotional charge with which they’re clearly meant to be invested.
The movie remains most successful when it details Augustín’s initial entry into the closed world of the Tigre, as the bewildered man tries to make sense of the situation he (as Pedro) has been thrust into and people continually address him as his brother. Here, Mortensen’s largely blank mask proves most effective, a plausible shield against the detection of his true identity that could easily be given away by the slightest hint of surprise. But this is one of the few times when Piterbarg seems interested in pushing things out of her comfort zone. While the film’s restraint is in many ways admirable, and Mortensen nails the moodiness that’s clearly important to Piterbarg’s conception of the character, it proves to be the film’s failing, as understatement gives way at last to unaffecting drama.