I am still not sure about Gael Garcia Bernal's acting ability. I still can't tell if he is simply beautiful to watch, if it's his charm or if he is a truly gifted actor. There is something undeniably captivating about him but I still can't say what it is. Sometimes it seems like it's possible that he is along for the ride and the film carries him.
First-time director, author and poet Matthew Parkhill's "Dot the I" is Gael Garcia Bernal's first English language film. We have seen Bernal recently as the lead in "Bad Education" and "Motorcycle Diaries," and a few years ago in "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Amores Perros," the Mexican hit that catapulted him to international fame. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Garcia Bernal has taken Spanish language roles until now.
In the romantic thriller, "Dot the I," Carmen (Natalia Verbeke) chooses the handsome Brazilian stranger, Kit (García Bernal) as the last man she will kiss in a traditional "hen night" party in a London restaurant before her marriage to Barnaby (James D’Arcy, "Master and Commander"). When Carmen and Kit kiss they both feel a spark. Carmen is confused by her attraction, and when Kit doggedly pursues her, a love triangle develops. The devastatingly beautiful Carmen alludes to her recent escape from a harrowing abusive relationship in Spain. Barnaby, her wealthy, overly-solicitous milquetoast boyfriend is safe, but not as exciting as Kit.
Or, so we think. Soon we see that everything is different than it seems. The story is riveting and Carmen and Kit are compelling to watch. Their chemistry is palpable, and the characters are just plain fun. The lighting and camera work reveal rich colors as well as darkness and shadows which hint at impending treachery. The music is eclectic and moving; the Arabic rhythms are exciting, and allude to mystery, and Spain's Moorish history, also reflected in Carmen's passionate flamenco dance performance.
Sadly, D'Arcy's Barnaby turns into a caricature in the last part of the movie. He could have pulled the role off better if he held back a little. Natalia Verbeke's Carmen is nearly impeccable. Carmen is a complex, volatile, dark, and sometimes funny and wild character, and Verbeke is wonderful to watch. But, her character goes off course at the end, just like the story. Garcia Bernal's Kit is charming, funny, sweet, and innocent as well as loyal. But the last dark twist doesn't fit. Like Carmen, Kit also loses integrity when he commits an act that doesn't match his moral compass- the fatal flaw which renders the characters - and the story - psychologically incorrect. "Dot the i" is an intriguing and enjoyable ride until it falters at the end. So much of the film is convincingly complex and interesting – a coup for Parkhill - but being a stickler for a film fitting together, this lapse of integrity sorely disappointed me. …But watching Natalia Verbeke and Gael Garcia Bernal might have been worth it anyway.
In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine International. 3/23/05
© 2005 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 3/23/05
Dot the I
Writer/Director: Matthew Parkhill; (2003); English; 92 Minutes