CIFF Review: The Student


[Flixist will be attending the 47th Chicago International Film Festival over the next few weeks. Be sure to follow along as we bring you reviews, interviews, and more from the longest-running competitive international film festival in the country. You can easily keep track of the coverage here.]

The great thing about works of fiction is that, no matter the framework in which it’s being created, they almost always serve as a metaphor for something greater. School-set films are the perfect setting for such films, because they represent a general experience that we’ve all had at in our lives. However, school structure isn’t the same across the globe, as is made evident by The Student.

The Student (El Estudiante)
Director: Santiago Mitre
Rating: TBD
Country: Argentina

Roque (Esteban Lamothe) is a student at the University of Buenos Aires. Prioritizing girls and parties over his education, he quickly finds something that catches his attention: politics. At first only being sexually attracted to assistant professor and activist, Paula (Romina Paula), Roque finds himself drawn into the world of politics. Before long, he quickly rises up the ranks as organization leader and university principal hopeful Alberto Acevedo’s (Ricardo Felix) right-hand man in this film’s metaphoric depiction of the seedy, untrustworthy world of politics framed in a university politics-set narrative.

One drawback about The Student is how deeply rooted the plot is to Argentine history and politics, alienating those unfamiliar with the various political movements and figureheads mentioned throughout the film. Looking past that, however, the consensus of political corruption is widely known as the basic plot of the film revolves around the upheaval of an outdated college curriculum that involves as much pressure and attention as a presidential campaign. The film’s writer/director, Santiago Mitre, has drawn comparisons to Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), and it definitely shows in his editing. The script is fast-paced and constantly driving forward with no slowdown, representative of a political campaign during an election.

Lamothe was made for the role of the charismatic Roque: he’s a smooth talker, very enthusiastic and dedicated to his political beliefs, and genuinely handsome to boot – essentially, the perfect political candidate. He’s a relative newcomer to the industry, but has the potential of crossover success as the Rico Suave-type lead. Paula, as the lead actress, begins the film as a fully-realized character, but gradually loses screen time as Lamothe’s character begins his political ascent. Complementing Lamothe is Felix’ character, Acevedo. Much like candidates in the real world, he’s as smooth and charming as he is cunning and manipulative.

If you can overlook the references to Argentine politics, The Student is an engaging and entertaining film. Again, the Sorkin comparisons Mitre has received over this film are justified and well-meaning. With a debut as entertaining as this, Mitre’s future proves to be promising. Seriously, who would have guessed a film about Argentine school politics would be this good?