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La Mujer de mi Hermano (2005)


In examining a woman’s affair with her husband’s brother, the Argentine import La Mujer de Mi Hermano makes the illicit out to be as passionate and sinful as a visit to the dentist. Lack of sexiness aside, the movie has an impersonal bedside manner, as if it’s afraid to provoke any fiery feelings. That’s not good. A movie featuring extramarital lust, jealousy, and domestic secrets should not make married audience members feel their lives are more volatile by comparison.

The marriage of Ignacio (Christian Meier) and Zoe (the stunning Bárbara Mori) is on the rocks even before she takes up with Ignacio’s younger brother, Gonzalo (Manolo Cardona), a scruffy, laid-back painter who is the complete opposite of his corporate, uptight sibling. On top of Ignacio and Zoe’s baby problems – they can’t conceive and she refuses to adopt – the passion has all but left their 10-year-old marriage. Ignacio insists on having sex only on Saturday, and their house has all the warmth of a Sharper Image catalogue. Gonzalo, with his rumpled attire and lean build, is a tempting alternative. Zoe goes to him first as a confidante, then as a lover, which forces the three principals to reexamine their relationships with each other.

Director Ricardo de Montreuil and screenwriter Jaime Bayly (working from his own novel) stress visuals: Zoe and Ignacio’s cold house, Gonzalo’s sloppy attire and artwork, and the life of routine Zoe and Ignacio have built together. The plot’s progression doesn’t go beyond this simplicity, emphasizing major plot points instead of showing what Zoe learns along the way. OK, so she has sex in a hotel room and goes skinny dipping in her pool. Well, so do a lot of people. What else is there? Well, nothing much. Revealing dialogue may be a relief from the opulent indifference that weighs the movie down like an anchor, but it doesn’t get us any closer to caring about these people.

Zoe is completely oblivious, not because she’s too consumed with passion, but because Mori plays the role like she’s half asleep. She’s the anti-Diane Lane. Cardona lacks the heat of, say, Olivier Martinez in Unfaithful or Daniel Craig in The Mother, to make his love scenes with Mori compelling. (Speaking of which, if a movie ever needed a gratuitous shot of a breast or a bare ass it’s La Mujer de Mi Hermano. The sex scenes fall right in line with the movie’s sluggish pace.) Ignacio’s big revelation gets disclosed in an almost offhand way and is telegraphed from 20 minutes in, robbing the movie of a spark. Zoe’s sassy gay friend (Bruno Bichir) and her priest (rocker Beto Cuevas) seem like cast-offs from a bad TV drama, and provide more doubt. If Zoe needed someone to talk to, then why not go to these two instead of a brother-in-law she rarely sees?

One could make the case that La Mujer de Mi Hermano is striving to be the rich version of The Good Girl – hey, the wealthy can be bored, too. I don’t buy that. Mike White’s script in that 2002 gem packed a subtle wallop, as Jennifer Aniston’s blue-collar wife invested a lot of energy before discovering that improving her life was too much work. La Mujer de Mi Hermano throws in a few twists and a couple of love scenes, hoping that creates a parable on the lifestyle of the rich and frustrated. It doesn’t. De Montreuil and Bayly disregard what happens outside the sheets, and what happens between them is barely worth discussing.

Aka My Brother’s Wife.

I don’t just sleep on them. I’m also wearing the sheets.