Javier Andrade's 'Porcelain Horse'
Javier Andrade's 'Porcelain Horse'

Porcelain Horse, Ecuador's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. : None Yet. International Sales Agent: FIGA Films

There is an absurd romanticism associated with the careless trifecta representative of outlaws living on the edge in a state of pure hedonistic ecstasy: sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Those who revel in excess, oblivious to any consequence, at least temporarily, are symbols of a lifestyle glorified because they only seek instant gratification. The rock stars, the celebrities, the adored rebels who don’t abide by any restrictive norm, they are the ones the youth aspires to be like. Bigger than life creatures whose mortality seems not to concern them, but instead numbing pleasure becomes their vice. Those who can’t afford such expensive existence, but still pursue it, are even more directionless and pitiful. It is them that director Javier Andrade is most interested in exploring in his debut narrative feature Porcelain Horse.

Structured as a recollection of a series of terrible decisions, the story is narrated by Paco (Francisco Savinovich), one of two drug-addicted brothers in their twenties from an affluent family in the Ecuadorian coastal town of Portoviejo. Painting a picture of his family dynamics with nostalgic sarcasm, Paco expresses in detail his opinions on his siblings, his parents, and even his own damaged reasoning. His deranged brother Luis (Victor Arauz), the perennial black sheep, wants to be a punk rock star with his band “Los Propios” (The Proper Ones). However, higher on his list of priorities is finding ways to sustain his wicked dependency on illegal drugs. One night while celebrating New Year’s Eve with Paco the urge turns intolerable, and lacking the funds to get their fix, the pair decides to steal their father’s beloved porcelain horse. Fed up with his sons’ entitlement and leaching conduct, their old man puts up a fight that ends up killing him making the precious statue a symbol of the family’s demise.

Porcelain Horse

What ensues is a downward spiral for both men provoked by situations that superficially seemed like opportunities for them to improve, but which are ruined by their lack of self-control. Their mother and sister leave the country for Miami leaving them as inheritance their family home, which they ransack to indulge their habit. Occasionally Paco meets his longtime lover Lucia (Leovanna Orlandini), who is married with a kid, for intense and substance-induced sexual encounters. Eventually she decides to leave her husband Rodrigo (Alejandro Fajardo) and begins a torrid romance with him, a move that angers her wealthy parents who refuse to support her. Meanwhile, Luis manages to get a record deal from his new romantic interest, none other than Lucia’s ex-partner who admits to being a closeted homosexual. Connected by their unforgivable faults and self-absorbed behavior, these four flawed individuals ultimately meet their fate, which gives one of them a second chance to rectify their communal mistakes.

Refusing to identify themselves as failures the brothers’ raunchy fraternal love is based on their shared guilt over their father’s death and the emotional decay and disconnect they have caused for their family. Paco’s detailed observations and commentary unveil his yearning to follow the status quo as his parent’s would have liked, but sadly the disastrous path they chose dragged them further away from realizing the havoc they created. The state of pure and carefree anarchy they pretend to enjoy is false, as they live submissive to the momentary relief the drugs provide. They are slaves to that artificial cure that helps them ignore years of regret. Heartfelt and intense, Savinovich and Arauz performances are equally praiseworthy. They imbue their characters with an armature of despicable banality that covers their shame and vulnerability. This complexity helps their problematic relationship ring true.

Enhanced by a musical selection that includes classics from bygone times and futile modern picks, the generational divide is clear. Luis aspires to be a star, dissociating himself from the established and accepted lifestyle, he refuses to be “proper.” Paco, on the other hand, is perhaps even more adrift. Dreading his job as a bank clerk he believes he could be much more, whether that means fulfilling his father’s desires or his own is what’s at stake. Andrade’s work is crude and blunt, but in that straightforward approach there is truth. His story follows these reckless pariahs simply because they have no goals, they are lost, and that’s what makes them appealing. He decided to make a film about unspoken things, about the dirty laundry of a family that finally comes to light. Porcelain Horse is a stimulating and vivid journey that is as nonchalant as it is strangely endearing.

Read more about all the 76 Best Foreign Language Film Submission for the 2014 Academy Awards