English Title: Geminis
Original Title: Géminis
Country of Origin: Argentina
Studio: Matanza Cine, Slot Machine, Pyramide International
Director: Albertina Carri
Producer(s): Pablo Trapero
Cinematographer: Guillermo Nieto
Art Director: María Eugenia Sueiro
Editor: Rosario Suárez
Runtime: 85 minutes
Genre: Modern Families
Lucía is the controlling, overbearing matriarch of an upper-class Argentine family. She lives with her husband Daniel and children, Meme and Jeremías. As the film opens, she is awaiting the return of her son Ezequiel, who lives in Spain with his wife, Montse. Lucía is throwing a wedding party for Ezequiel and Montse in the family’s country house. Unbeknownst to anyone, Meme and Jeremías share a secret, incestuous bond. At the country estate, Ezequiel discovers their secret and he is horrified. However, he says nothing, and the party takes place. That night, Lucía injures her foot and the family returns to Buenos Aires. Meme and Jeremías continue their sexual relationship back home until, by accident, Lucía makes the shocking discovery. There are horrible consequences.
Carri tackles the sensitive topic of incest in a non-exploitative way. Part of what makes Geminis so tense and absorbing is its matter-of-fact approach to the taboo subject. Meme and Jeremías are first seen sitting closely together on the couch watching a nature documentary about pandas in captivity. The programme raises the question of whether a mother cares for her young or lets them die because they are being held captive. It provides a shrewd parallel for their mother Lucia’s child-rearing skills. Daniel, the father, is mostly absent from the family dynamics.
Meme and Jeremías are soon seen naked together in a jacuzzi, and then touching each other teasingly in a grocery store. Their familiarity is questionable, but viewers may not suspect anything sexual exists between them even after Lucía catches them together in the bathroom. However, when the siblings cuddle naked in a bed, their affair is more explicit. It becomes magnified during a passionate encounter in a nightclub. It is, of course, only a matter of time before the taboo relationship is discovered. When Ezequiel spies on his siblings and figures things out, the dramatic tension paves the way for greater fireworks to occur later.
Geminis presents the incestuous sex scenes in a graphic and convincing manner that indicates the power of the siblings’ relationship – both attraction for the lovers and repulsion for everyone else. It is to the actors’ credit that they both give fearless performances. The way this taboo is introduced is significant, too. While Meme and Jeremías’s intense sexual relationship is seen prominently several times in the film, the topic of incest is first discussed in an entirely different context. Lucía tells her family – unaware of the irony of her speech – that their minor spats and trivial problems are nothing compared to the emotional stress their housekeeper Olga is experiencing. Lucía announces that Olga’s fifteen-year-old daughter is pregnant for the second time, and suspects the girl’s father of raping her (though this is never confirmed). Lucía terms this a ‘lower-class problem’. The subject of incest also comes up when Meme sees Olga watching a soap opera and a character learns that the woman he loves is his sister. It is a nice touch to show how the topic is more universally acknowledged.
Meme and Jeremías deliberately never talk about their feelings for one another – though Lucía says she is pleased her children are not fighting. One does sense that their physical comforts are replacing or compensating for their emotional unavailability. When Ezequiel discovers their affair and tries to address it with Jeremías (albeit by punching him), they agree that their mother must not find out. It is a telling moment that the brothers now have a secret, too. But the film’s tension boils down to its Big Dramatic Moment when Lucía walks in on her son and daughter naked and having sex. However foreshadowed this scene is, it is still shocking, and Carri films this episode brilliantly – without music, and for a brief spell, without sound. When Lucía’s piercing screams explode on the soundtrack they are jarring, uncomfortable and incredibly effective. Banegas’s performance is highly arresting in these final moments, but also throughout Geminis. She makes Lucía sympathetic, even if she is nagging and blindsided. Some viewers may assume that Carri is trying to make the smothering Lucía the villain of the piece – that her behaviour and lack of warmth prompts her children’s inappropriate relationship. But Geminis resists such a facile reading. Lucía’s veneer cracks when she discovers the truth about her children – because suddenly this ‘lower- class problem’ is her problem. She sees this, and feels she has failed as a parent. But blame is not really being placed, even though punishment is being administered. Carri presents the situation without judgment. How Lucía and her kids fare at the film’s end is perhaps Geminis’s most exacting point.
Author of this review: Gary M Kramer