Having worked as a wealthy family’s caretaker for three decades, aging widower Beto (Nolberto Coria) sees the empty Mexico City mansion he looks after as a combination of prison and sanctuary. Writer-director Enrique Rivero’s Parque Vía follows its protagonist through a rigid daily routine of domestic chores that, repeated over the course of the film, comes to embody the man’s loneliness and crippling fear of change. During the day, Beto irons and starches shirts, mows the lawn, scrubs bathtubs, and serves La Senora (Tesalia Huerta), the villa’s queenly but benign proprietor; at night, he slumps before the TV and impassively takes in reports of death and crime from the outside world. Once a week a beefy hooker (Nancy Orozco) visits him for sex and companionship, but to Beto most visitors are threats to the cocoon of harmony and monotony he’s forged for himself over the years, a balance suddenly endangered by La Senora’s decision to sell the house.
With its ritualistic repetitions and concluding act of violence, Rivero’s film is something of a pocket-book Jeanne Dielman, with agoraphobia and master/servant irony in the place of Chantal Akerman’s monumental, feminist experimentalism. A gnarled old oak assayed by a taciturn nonprofessional actor, Coria’s Berto also brings to mind Angel Tavira’s noble fiddler in Francisco Vargas’s The Violin; while Vargas used his leading man’s weathered stoicism for gravitas, however, Rivero repeatedly edges Coria’s guardedness toward sneaky, dark humor. As striking as it is enervating, the film exudes the aridness of a modest short unprofitably expanded to feature length, though Rivero’s punchline is a swift and brutal curveball—suddenly, a languid, mild humanistic plea becomes a sardonic class-conflict satire—that made this reviewer want to watch the whole thing again from a different angle.