Work on Carancho (which translates as The Vulture) was completed in 2010. Despite being selected as Argentina’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards (though it didn’t make the final shortlist), and being entered at Cannes, the movie only arrived in UK cinemas on a limited release in 2012.
Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes) plays Sosa, the vulture of the title. He’s an ambulance chasing lawyer who represents victims and families of Argentina’s 8,000 annual traffic fatalities. His firm set themselves up as the voice of the poor and oppressed, fighting for compensation and justice, but in reality, they take a gigantic cut of any compensation payments. Sick of his role in the fleecing of those already struggling to get by, Sosa starts looking for a way out. Matters are complicated by his growing feelings for Lujan (Martina Gusman), a paramedic whose path he keeps crossing, and who he inadvertently makes a party to one of his scams.
Carancho depicts a broken society full of compromised individuals. There is a good deal of evil depicted, but a lot more of simple human weakness. Sosa is a complex protagonist “ he has a moral compass, but it malfunctions fairly regularly. Lujan too, is not a straightforward love interest; she’s self-medicating in a pretty serious way, perhaps in order to cope with what her job makes her witness to.
Carancho is a film of darkness, both metaphorically and literally, with most scenes taking place at night, on empty roads, hospital corridors and deserted late night coffee shops, the scenes a combination of dark shadows and harsh neon that seem to owe a lot to the paintings of Edward Hopper. This darkness reflects the mood of the piece perfectly.
The film has a number of strengths “ a painstakingly created oppressive atmosphere and a fine cast among them, but it also has its weaknesses, not least in that it deals with some fairly complex aspects of Argentinian law that are confusing to the casual viewer. And while the number of car crashes in Argentina is shockingly high, it still feels like there are a few too many that are convenient to the plot in this film. In addition, as powerful as the film is, and while it may be an accurate reflection of some of the lives of the poorest people in Buenos Aires (I’m not saying it is; I can’t claim to know enough about that society), it’s simply too bleak to be an enjoyable film-going experience.