By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Argentina, and in particular its capital Buenos Aires, is much more diverse than most would think- a dizzying blend of Andean, Latin, and continental European cultures that makes for one of the most interesting and contradictory histories in South America. The country that harbored Eichmann is perhaps never as contradictory as its history with its thriving Jewish population, the sixth largest in the world.
Bet your town doesn’t have one of these.
The Tenth Man is about an Argentine Jew living in New York, Ariel (Alan Sabbagh), who returns to Buenos Aires to see his Dad, the perpetually missing Usher (Usher Barilka), who works as a kind of fixer & charity leader to the Once Jewish district of the city. As Usher enlists him for errand after errand to help out the people of his old hometown, he finds himself drawn towards the faith and culture he left behind. The presence of demure but direct Eva (Julieta Zylberberg) certainly doesn’t hurt.
The Tenth Man is a coming home story, a comedy, and a cultural immersion all in one, and despite its quick 82 minute runtime serves each aspect of this well. Sabbagh does a great job embodying a character who is very reluctant to get caught up into his father’s schemes, with some childhood scars due to the man’s continual placing of his community’s needs over his son’s.
However, the comedical portion of the film shoes the affability with which Usher manipulates all those who will pick up one of his many throw-away cell phones with varying amounts of credit left, all in service of keeping this colorful community humming and well. Ariel can’t help but appreciate the rewards of this hard work, and discovers he has not a little of his father in him.
Director Daniel Burman crafts a fairly low-stakes, but amiable, interesting, and well-delivered tale here in which, like Ariel, you’ll find yourself drawn into and appreciating the rhythms of.
The plot really is very low-key, though, and surprisingly attention-demanding. You really have to pay attention to the scores of cell phone conversations to see the web Usher is trying to weave to keep his son in Argentina.
Speaking of which, ultimately, there’s a bit of a weird message here. Usher’s schemes are humorous, but kind of Machiavellian and probably not worth celebrating in the context of how he uses them to control his son. It’s the sort of thing that’s going to be a pretty big blow-up down the road between them when things aren’t quite so hunky-dory.
The Tenth Man is a low-stakes but winning, character-driven drama set in a lively, interesting community you’re probably not familiar with. Give it a look.
The Tenth Man (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: until you get used to “Usher”
Even Google can’t handle it.
Take a Drink: for funerals and dead men’s apartments
Take a Drink: for cell phone conversations
Take a Drink: for each errand Ariel is sent on
Do a Shot: when we finally meet Usher