ND/NF: Finding True Characters in Alex Dos Santos’ Unmade Beds
Alexis Dos Santos’ second feature film, Unmade Beds, has its triumph in the same place as its flaw: it is a very authentic externalization of two lives that lack any real direction, and the totally tacit creation of a fate that the audience sees, but that the characters themselves cannot know. The result is insightful and pleasurable, if less compelling than a film about characters that are aware of a greater investment in their own lives might be.
Our two protagonists are Axl (Fernando Tielve) and Vera (Déborah François). Axl has come from Spain to London with the explanation that London is the location of his estranged father (whether he actually wants to know his father is unclear). He ends up living in a warehouse that has been refurbished into living quarters for an uncertain number of penniless indie kids who have made their way to London. Vera also lives in this warehouse, and she shares Axl’s sense of disaffection. One of my favorite moments from the film is when Vera makes her way through a hedge labyrinth in less than two minutes, then laments that she may have used up all her life’s luck in that maze. Both characters’ lives are characterized by waking up in unfamiliar beds, and by pleasure derived from music and the absurd. In spite of their simpatico outlooks and their sharing of a living space, neither character is aware of the other’s existence.
We spend the film waiting for a climax that is not driven by the actions of the characters, but rather by the shape of its structure. We watch two characters that stumble and meander with vague lopsided plans of getting something they are not sure they want, and as we witness their parallel action in close proximity, we feel that their lives must somehow collide. What keeps us guessing is not the characters’ personal and self-aware journey to a known goal, but rather the hope that chance will put them in a place that they are not yet aware of; a place where we know that they belong.