Much Ado About Nothing, the second instalment in Chilean director Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ ‘Justice’ trilogy, has a serious agenda. Revisiting an actual case that caused a considerable stir in the country when reported by the media, this is a film designed to protest against abuse of privilege and corrupt power structures in Chile. Crowd-funded, and made by a cast and crew who agreed to waive their fees in order to see it released, it has the façade of sharply defined social criticism. Its appearance, however, is closer to that of a teen soap drama.
What’s frustrating is the promise displayed during the concentrated setup. Vicente (Agustín Silva) is a wealthy teen with fantastic hair, who loves to play hard, and party harder. Having met some new friends on the beach one afternoon, Vicente heads out into the night, carrying a drum filled with potent piscola (a brandy-based Chilean cocktail).
Utilising a fluid handheld camera motion, Almendras builds an effectively false sense of security in the opening scenes. Vicente’s night takes a turn for the worse when the car he’s traveling in is rocked by a hefty collision, killing a man who was walking along the road at the time. Vicente wasn’t driving, but the real driver – the son of powerful senator who cannot afford to have his reputation tarnished – soon aims the finger of blame in his direction. And faced with a charge of manslaughter, a complex legal battle ensues.The film’s fatal flaw ultimately lies in Almendras’ diluted direction, which seems more concerned with Vicente’s progressing relationship with a local señorita – hard-hitting topicality bathed in the soapy bubbles of The OC, which diminish any dramatic worth.
Exhaustive uses of onscreen text and tweets as a form of exposition, mixed with a harmonic showcase of cool and contemporary Chilean beats, amplify a glossy surface of trendy adolescence, while the sombre subject is tonally belied throughout by the warming sheen of Inti Briones’ colourful cinematography. Even Silva’s performance, so heavily coated in the passive veneer of youth, only ever registers as dull.
The Spanish translation of the original title Aquí no ha pasado nada is ‘Here Nothing Has Happened’. It’s a shrewd suggestion of the story’s high-society skewering, and one that’s contradicted by the bizarre Western territory title, which is meant to suggest an apathetic attitude on the part of those involved, but only serves to highlight the inert nature of this nonsensical nonsense.