Though he sees the twin protagonists of his Unmade Beds through a generous, fellow partygoer’s lens, writer-director Alexis Dos Santos accents the melancholy of youthful aches for connection and roots as heavily as he does the exuberance of bohemian lust and inebriation. Twenty-year-old Axl (Fernando Tielve, floppy-haired and elfin) journeys to east London from Madrid in search of the English father who left when he was three; bed-hopping through blackout nights in clubs and rock bars, he lands in a warehouse squat of young artists and DJs. Also residing there, though a stranger to him, is sad-eyed Vera (Déborah François), a Belgian romantic who randomly places books on shelves for customer serendipity in the shop where she clerks, and begins a free-and-easy affair with a scruffy stranger (Michiel Huisman) that leaves her with little but the Polaroids she takes of their empty postcoital bed.
Retaining the playful improvisatory work with actors from his Argentine feature Glue, Dos Santos, with cinematographer Jakob Ihre, uses a new-wavish blaze of nocturnal primary colors in the streets and on the dance floors, along with photos, Super 8, and Van Sant-like time-lapse to catch the needy passion in Vera’s mourning of lost love and the joyous but complicating entanglement of Axl’s drunken threesome with roommates.
Dualities are everywhere—in the unwitting sharing of a loud-striped jacket and an old mattress, in the layered dance of denial performed by Alex and his father (Richard Lintern)—and a voiceover by Vera suggests a correlative to Dos Santos’s emerging vision. Individuals are like bubbles that merge when they meet, she affirms, while her ex believed they are planets whose pairing can never be more than “one plus one.” Unmade Beds, with its occasionally twee chronicling of pogoing in funny hats and heart-to-hearts between NSA lovers, portrays its seekers as planets aspiring to bubblehood, or at least one tandem leap into the void.