Soporific and missing a chance to tell a much more interesting story, A Common Crime does at least have a strong performance at its centre.
The slow-pace of Argentinian drama A Common Crime certainly gives time to mull over what exactly the ‘common crime’ of the title is. Is it the murder of a young man? Is it the corrupt police involvement in his disappearance? Is it the guilt of doing nothing?
The answer could well be all three, but the film, unfortunately, seems to miss an opportunity to say anything important about corruption in Argentina and instead focuses on white wealthy privilege feeling guilty at looking the other way.
Cecilia (Elisa Carricajo) is a sociology teacher who lives with her young son in a nice suburb. Her housekeeper Nebe (Mecha Martinez) and Nebe’s son Kevin (Eliot Otazo) live in a much less wealthy and more dangerous area. One stormy night Cecilia is woken by banging on her door. Startled, she sees that it is Kevin but doesn’t open up. The next day Kevin is reported missing, allegedly at the hands of the corrupt police.
Writer and director Francisco Márquez chooses then to follow the guilt-trip of the wealthy woman who could perhaps have prevented events from spiraling as they did, instead of the much more interesting thread of the search for justice and/or the implication of police corruption. Cecilia’s teaching is full of rhetoric about society, but her actions only count when there is no disadvantage to her. Her class and privilege give her a welcome cocoon and her wealth allows her to even attempt to pay away her guilt.
It’s a guilt which manifests itself in different ways, to the point that the film begins to feel like a home-invasion story for a while.
The almost-saving grace of an otherwise drawn-out narrative is the performance of Elisa Carricajo. There are long periods without dialogue, with the camera rarely leaving her face. She is able to convey the tension and increasing emotional burden very acutely – it’s just that her side of the story is infuriatingly the least interesting.