"Whisky" is what Uruguayans say instead of "cheese" to force a smile for a photo. It is a perfect title for this maddeningly slow but deceptively clever comedy, for its characters are surely among the most miserable ever to face celluloid. Apprehensive of the visit of his more successful brother Herman, Jacobo, the grizzled owner of a sock factory, persuades his near-mute assistant Marta to pose as his wife. But instead of the obvious farce, their wickedly uncomfortable weekend evolves into something altogether more original.
We start with the thrice-repeated opening of Jacobo's ramshackle sock factory - shutters, lights, and machinery forming an almost musical introduction to his desperately boring life. Everything in the film is run-down, half-pace, and on the verge of packing up for good reflecting Jacobo's miserable half-existence; simmering with unexpressed rage, he's broken and unwilling to fix himself. You just know the arrival of his brother and the weekend with Marta will trigger something, but what?
"A MEMORABLY CLEVER AND SUBTLE WORK"
Masterfully understated comic performances exploit an achingly potent seam of wit just below the surface. The barely spoken animosity between the brothers is a joy, and the development of Marta's relationship with each sibling is fascinatingly bizarre, moreso for being told almost entirely in gestures. A warning, though. Aside from a couple of euphoric, whirlwind moments, Whisky is deliberately, absurdly slow-moving, to the point of cruelty to audiences. Wordless for long stretches, this is a film for the observant and the endlessly patient. But given time and thought, the convincing veneer of dullness is blasted away to reveal a memorably clever and subtle work - and leave you with a vicious grin.
In Spanish with English subtitles.