Directed by Alvaro Brechner
Mr. Kaplan is at turns funny, touching and dramatic. As a selection from Uruguay at the 37th Starz Denver Film Festival (and Uruguay's entry for the 2015 Oscars), it's a shining example of the power of film, universal themes and how much alike we all really are when the lights go down and the movies start.
Mission from God
Jacob Kaplan (Hector Noguera) is 76 and he's not happy with what he's got to show for it. He's been married — to the same woman — for 50 years, certainly no small feat. He also has a couple kids, polar opposites of each other. One's a struggling writer who dresses casual, the other is a businessman who's always wearing a tie.
But Jacob hasn't risen to the level of achievement of his Biblical namesake. Nor has he ranked well in comparison to other historically noteworthy septuagenarians and octogenarians.
In short, Jacob is a man in need of a mission. Never mind the fact that he has trouble parking his car. And he can't swim. And his eyesight's failing him.
Never mind that stuff.
Jacob needs a mission of epic proportions.
A Full Tank of Gas...
Thank goodness Jacob also has a chatty granddaughter, Lottie (Nuria Flo), and Contreras (Nestor Guzzini), an unlikely ally who's an unemployed, overweight sad sack friend struggling to bring his own wife and kids back under one roof.
Piecing bits of information together, Jacob asserts a suspicious beachcomber - and owner of a beach bar that serves warmed-over frozen fish sticks — frozen! — is actually a Nazi in hiding. Is it merely coincidence this Nazi scumbag has a daughter named Estrella, translating to the same name as the ship that brought Adolf Eichmann to South America?
Jacob is convinced he's found his calling: to track down this Nazi and bring him to justice in Israel. A tranquilizer dart for use on rhinos, procured from the local zoo, should do the trick.
... Half a Pack of Cigarettes
Jacob and Contreras embark on a very funny journey spoken in fluent cinema speak, including a nod to the visual lingo of spaghetti westerns. The two characters are disarming, appealing and completely sympathetic. One can only hope their abilities to broadly jump to overreaching conclusions pays off well for them.
Never mind the subtitles. Writer/director Alvaro Brechner has crafted a charming tale, one worthy of Uruguay's Oscar aspirations. Brechner has given his character's heart - and heart crosses all language barriers and international boundaries.
The main escapade is comedic, but it's underpinned by the harsh realities of growing old. Contreras is a family friend, but he's also been assigned as Jacob's designated driver, given Jacob's failing abilities behind the wheel. And maybe, just maybe, Jacob is showing signs of dementia that'll surely rob him of any future opportunities to pursue fortune and glory.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.