End of the Century – A fleeting connection that could have been love

‘Fin de siglo’

What if we had made different decisions as a result of the random meetings, and fleeting love affairs we have had? This is the question posed by writer-director Lucio Castro. His debut feature ‘End of the Century’ focusing on the power of chance encounters and the fear of commitment. The passion for personal freedom often wrapped in a fear of allowing yourself to be open to others.

Castro’s film opens with Ocho (Juan Barberini), arriving in Barcelona, his Airbnb apartment looking out over the scenic city. His first thoughts centring on the men who may await his visit on Grindr.

Ocho walks around the city by day, taking in the beauty of the buildings, beaches and parks surrounding him. His freedom in exploration matched with a sadness and distance from any human contact. However, on meeting Javi (Ramon Pujol) both men engage in a brief but passionate afternoon of sex. Leading to an evening drinking wine and eating crackers while looking out over city as the sun begins to set. Their conversation centring on the lives they lead; Javi’s open and loving relationship with his husband; Ocho’s recent separation from his partner. The conversation moving gracefully to Javi and his husbands daughter, when Ocho casually states “I have a strange feeling we have met before”. The answer surprising him as Javi replies “that’s because we have”. The film then taking us back to 1999 in Barcelona and a meeting that could have become a loving relationship.

The first 40 minutes of Castro’s film owe a huge amount to Andrews Haigh’s 2011 Weekend. Both men finding sexual release in the arms of each other, their characters different in their sexual and emotional needs. Ocho praising his new found freedom, while Javi is open and transparent in the meeting being a mere sexual frolic. His own life settled with a husband and daughter he adores. However Castro quickly diverges from the themes of Haigh’s Weekend, as we discover both men have met before. Javi aware of Ocho from the outset while Ocho has chosen to forget their original encounter.

End of the Century (2019)

It is within this time travelling jump that Castro creates a unique and highly interesting exploration of Ocho and Javi’s journey in identifying as gay men. Both still closeted on their original meeting through a mutual friend, the spark of their encounter changing both men’s lives. One embracing the possibility of relationships and love. The other choosing to run from commitment and shield himself from possible hurt. His own sexuality causing fear and pleasure in equal measure.

As we rejoin both men in the present, it is clear that Javi will move on, their conversation a mere retrospective exploration of how his life changed on meeting Ocho. His desires firmly rooted in the family life he has attained. While for Ocho, the spark of their second meeting ignites the realities of a life where he has run from love and affection. His pursuit of personal freedom and lack of confidence in his own sexuality raising the question of ‘what if’. Ultimately for Ocho this question is redundant, both men having chosen their path 20 years ago. Their current lives shaped by the individual choices they made.

Castro’s debut is assured filmmaking, but does require the viewer to stick with the narrative. The sudden jumps in time often creating a slightly confusing on screen story. Equally the films ending feels slightly out of place. The films core messages adequately portrayed on the final separation of both men after their night of conversation. The need for further elaboration of what might have been feeling loose and confused as the film draws to a close.

However despite these flaws Castro delivers a nuanced story of love, commitment and fleeting connections. Its meditation on the love we loose due to snap decisions, and the fear of the relationships they may generate, resonating in a world of instant dating apps.

Director: Lucio Castro

Cast: Juan Barberini, Ramon Pujol

Argentina (2019)

End of the Century is showing at the BFI London Film Festival from Tuesday 8th October 2019

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