Netflix It: ‘Peter and Vandy’ and ‘Sidewalls’

In the span of two days, I Netflixed two quirky, offbeat RomComs.

I have qualms about classifying them as RomComs, actually. They’ve got the “rom” aspect down in that they center on romantic relationships, and I guess they’re comedic at certain points but they’re definitely nowhere near the likes of “Legally Blonde” or “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” I guess they’d be more accurately called romantic dramedies?

Whatever. They were good and that’s what matters.

The first one I watched is called “Peter and Vandy” (2009) and is similar to the much-acclaimed and immensely popular “(500) Days of Summer” (2009) in that the plot line is fragmented and nonlinear. Unlike in “(500) Days of Summer,” there are no little subheaders that appear on the screen with a date stamp to help the viewer contextualize each plot fragment and mentally reorganize them into a coherent linear entity. Instead we see in no order and in seemingly every order the beginning, middle and end of a relationship between, you guessed it, Peter and Vandy.

As you may or may not know, I’m a very organized and linearly-minded person (this may be an understatement), so my first reaction, upon reaching the “end” of the film, was one of annoyed and disappointed frustration; I’d failed to fully decode the movie—I didn’t have a clear understanding of what happened, plot-wise.

Naturally, I spent a good hour or so Googling the movie and reading countless reviews (none of which went into spoiler territory, much to my chagrin). So, I remained frustrated.

Then I thought about it some more. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be able to 100 percent, fully know what had happened. Maybe (probably) that wasn’t the point.

What was important, and what the film does do, is illustrate the complexities and conflicts, the minute and grating imperfections that exist in any relationship (no matter how “perfect” it may seem or may have the potential to be).

This isn’t to say that I don’t want to watch it again to try to jam the various puzzle pieces of scenes into a logical progression…but that’s just how I am.

The second film I watched was “Medianeras” (2011) (or “Sidewalls” for those of us illiterate in Spanish, like me). The scene is set in Buenos Aires and the plot jumps back and forth between two characters, Martín and Mariana. They’re each searching for love (like we all are) with someone they’ve yet to meet—SPOILER: They’re searching for each other (duh).

Ironically, the two share a medianera or sidewall—they live in itsy bitsy apartments in adjacent buildings. We see their lives intersect excruciatingly—they pass each other on the street, shop at the same store at the same time, and even randomly chat online before a power outage interrupts the connection.

Do they ever meet??? I’ll let you watch and find out for yourself.

The cinematography is beautiful (the film definitely deserves a second viewing for that reason alone, especially if you have to split your time during the first viewing between reading the subtitles and watching the action). There’s also a great “Where’s Waldo?” motif that’s established early and persists until the very end.

What I really enjoyed about each of them was their unconventionality—they were, for the most part, unpredictable. Every now and then, a nice predictable RomCom is nice (like when you’re home sick with the flu), but on the whole I really like movies that are unexpected, that make you think. These two films fit the bill.

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