Gigante isn’t a great movie, but it’s likeably humble and scruffy around the edges. Writer-director Adrián Biniez refreshingly doesn’t wallow in intended pathos; his picture doesn’t have that pleading earnestness that can overwhelm certain new neorealist movies that serve good intentions in place of apparent frivolities such as insight (don’t see Frozen River). The scenario is ready-made for Marty-style self-pity: An overweight supermarket security guard in Montevideo, Jara (Horacio Camandule) becomes infatuated with Julia (Leanor Svarcas), the pretty, younger cleaning woman he watches in the store’s cameras. But Biniez doesn’t condescendingly pity Jara, and he doesn’t rub the man’s belly or his boredom in our faces. Biniez hangs back as his lead walks a road perilously close to stalking, the suspense meant to derive from our apprehension of how far Jara is willing to take his preoccupation. Jara, as many overweight men of a certain salary bracket in love before him have, assumes Julia to be an untouchable object meant for better men—though his detective work gradually leads him to believe otherwise.
There’s an obvious tightrope walk inherent to these pictures in which the day-to-day banalities of normal people are meant to add up to something with the shape and hindsight of traditional fiction. The imposition of a point of view can compromise the authenticity of the characters and the milieu, but a shapeless, “naturalistic” approach, in the wrong hands, can be pointless; the filmmakers having nothing apart from principle and attempted empathy to give us. (The Dardennes’ pictures are the ideal contemporary balance.) Gigante has the usual issues: it’s vague and not particularly cinematic, a collection of (purposefully) static, sometimes too self-consciously staged medium shots that reveal little of Jara and Julia apart from what we already assume of their lonely hearts stereotypes. Biniez mistakes hollow for ambiguous: We wait for more to happen.
The leads compensate. Moments of Camandule, this big burly teddy bear, rocking out to metal and making popping sounds with his mouth to puncture the overwhelming boredom of his jobs, are dryly funny. The stalking issue isn’t as creepy, or as contrived, as it would normally be because Camandule shows us that it’s just a natural extension of his clueless what-the-hell spirit, another preoccupation to get him through the day. Camandule’s performance frees the picture of most of its sentimentality, making the events palpable. Svarcas doesn’t have much to do; she’s the promise of better things seen almost exclusively through Jara’s eyes, but she still suggests mystery and play. We see her as more than just hot stuff, and we get hints of a life with the kind of down time that just might allow her to give Jara a shot, at least in the movies.