“It doesn’t feel like a matter of choice”, ponder Jake and Mati about their newly found ardour for one another. “I don’t think we could stop this even if we wanted to. It is not us doing it. It is happening to us.” Mati asks if it scares him, and indeed it does, “because we don’t know what it is”.
In Gabe Klinger’s movie Porto, a 26-year-old American without much direction named Jake encounters 32-year-old archaeologist Mati from France and discovers love at first sight. In one of his last roles before his untimely death, Anton Yelchin has a kind of poignant James Dean-style angst as the hopelessly enamoured Jake. He and Mati (Lucie Lucas) engage in intense lovemaking and share a sort of telepathic mutual understanding, but reality interferes in the guise of her professor/boyfriend. Flashbacks and flashforwards are frequent, scenes are repeated and scenarios shift. At first Mati rejects Jake and marries her professor, threatening to call the police because of Jake’s obsessive behaviour. Then in an alternate world, the two are bound together, rapturously in love and inseparable. Whether the second alternative is Jake’s fantasy is uncertain.
This picture is a simple story about two lovers, but their dialogue is profoundly philosophical and the feelings they express for each other are moving and passionate, with an intimacy that is almost otherworldly – a spiritual bond. The narrative contains very strong reminders of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which is also about a young American man who meets and falls for a young French women with whom he discusses philosophy.
With beautiful cinematography of the Portuguese setting, alternate filming styles are used throughout – from Super 8 to 35mm – to create shifts in mood and perception. Yelchin’s acting is superb in its minimalism, expressing sensitivity, yearning and sorrow with subtle intensity. Lucie Lucas gives a compelling performance as a bold, charismatic, slightly confused free spirit who blithely admits she used to be “crazy”. A charming, vital little film, Porto delves into the meaning of love, suggesting it has a mysterious force of its own that is beyond our understanding or control.
Porto does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Porto here: