La Mujer de Mi Hermano
South American drama proves more soapy than sexy
By Devin D. O'Leary
La Mujer de Mi Hermano
Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil
Cast: Bárbara Mori, Christian Meier, Manolo Cardona
You could say that Zoe and Ignacio Edwards are a happily married couple. Except that they aren't. At least not the “happily” part. After spending a few minutes inside their household, viewers of La Mujer de Mi Hermano will realize that--despite owning a successful factory, having an ultramodern house complete with indoor/outdoor pool and generally looking like a couple of models straight off the pages of GQ--the Edwards have a fairly chilly relationship.
For starters, the couple has been unable to conceive a child. Not that they're trying all that hard. Anal-retentive hubby Ignacio (Christian Meier) will only engage his wife in sexual relations once per week--on Saturdays, in fact. For her part, Zoe (Bárbara Mori) finds herself increasingly attracted to her husband's “free spirit” little brother Gonzalo (Manolo Cardona)--even though he's an unshaven slacker sponging off his brother's hefty bank account. Sounds like things in the Edwards house are about to get caliente. Muy caliente? Well, don't get your hopes up.
La Mujer de Mi Hermano (My Brother's Wife, for those monolingual moviegoers) sets itself up as a sexy, cautionary tale about adultery--something along the lines of Unfaithful or Fatal Attraction minus the gunplay. Unfortunately, it lacks the narrative weight to be anything other than a glossy telenovela. First-time director Ricardo de Montreuil adapts Jaime Bayly's antiseptic screenplay with some measurable visual skill. He throws in some pretty, symbolic imagery. (The Edwards' live, literally, in a glass house. Plus, that pool sure seems to stand for something.) De Montreuil treats the material seriously and gathers mostly credible performances from his TV actor cast. But he misses the fact that the story is little more than a series of melodramatic episodes among a trio of selfish jerks.
It's hard to muster up much sympathy for these characters. Ignacio is clearly a materialistic, overly repressed yuppie. Gonzalo is clearly a womanizing, faux-sensitive “artist.” And Zoe is kind of an idiot for not recognizing these obvious character flaws in either bedroom buddy.
The film occasionally reaches into heavy-breathing territory, with some luminously shot bedroom romps. Aesthetically speaking, the cast has got it going on. (Mori seems to have the most solid shot at crossing over to American audiences with her South American Cindy Crawford looks, but Cardona is the only castmember who actually displays much life on screen.) Despite the occasional glimpse of bare Peruvian/Uruguayan/Colombian flesh, the film never quite works up the sweaty, forbidden fruit appeal of Unfaithful. Instead, it gets distracted with soapy plot twists that force the characters to talk a lot, revealing the assorted reasons they all became such self-centered pricks. The plot revelations, though decidedly melodramatic, do go a long way toward explaining such puzzling questions as “Why the hell wouldn't Ignacio be sticking it to his wife on an hourly basis?”
La Mujer de Mi Hermano gets points for being all “serious” and “adult.” But it lacks the naughty thrill of Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También, and never quite stores up enough dramatic energy for its characters to do anything other than become mildly annoyed at one another. ... Word of advice, people: If you're gonna cheat on your spouse, discover your cheating spouse or screw over your brother by sleeping with his wife, at least do it with a little passion. Or some gunplay. Or a boiled bunny. Something.
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