Pasos Perdidos (The Lost Steps) (2001)
Director: Manane Rodríguez.
Starring: Irene Visedo (Mónica Erigaray), Luis Brandoni (Ernesto Erigaray), Concha Velasco (Inés Laroche), Federico Luppi (Bruno Leardi), Juan Querol (Pablo), Jesús Blanco (Luis), Gabriel Moreno (Gómez), Pedro Miguel Martínez (Mélendez), Cristina Collado (Míriam), Amparo Valle (Matilde), Paulina Gálvez (Abogada Leardi), Yael Barnatán (Silvia).
a grandfather tries to get back his granddaughter whose parents just "disappeared"
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Spain. A 23 year old young woman named Monica Erigaray awakens a bit anxious. In the morning she goes for a jog. A man watches her with binoculars. The man turns out to be Monica’s father. She sets up a fancy silver drinking cup on the cupboard in the dining room.
Her parents are having a dinner for friends. Monica is going out on a date. It is clear that her father is over-protective.
Moncia is at the night club with her boyfriend Luis. Monica and Luis are college students. She loves the fine arts but does not study them. At the nightclub there is a young guy named Pablo who seems to really like her. She dances with Luis and then looks around for Pablo. But what she sees is a man staring directly at her. The man follows their car home. He sends in a report naming her date for the evening and says they are heading home. Her father has two German shepherds at home.
She works part-time at a children’s nursery. She looks outside and sees a man talking with an older woman and the man points to the nursery window.
The lawyer for Monica’s father, named Melendez, comes in. The lawyers shows him a picture of a lost baby girl named Diana Leardi. The poster outrages Monica’s father. The lawyer asks him if he has told Monica about the situation. The answer is no. The lawyer thinks it best to tell her.
At a café Monica sees the same woman that was outside the nursery. Pablo approaches her and she tells him to leave her alone. As she waits for the bus, her boyfriend talks to her. She is worried and a bit upset. Her father pulls up in his car and gives her a ride home.
At nigh she hears her parents arguing and puts her head phones on to listen to music. They are arguing about telling or not telling Monica. The next morning Monica approaches the car that has been following her. She asks the man why he is following her. He tells her to ask her father.
Monica confronts her father at his office about having someone following her. She wants to know what’s going on. He shows her the poster of Diana. She tears the poster up and reminds her father that he should have told her what was going on, for, after all, there are three adults in the house, not two.
At home her father apologizes for his actions and Monica asks him to forgive her. He receives a call from his lawyer to turn on the television. There is a demonstration in Argentina concerning the disappeared ones: those secretly taken by the military dictatorship and killed. A famous Argentine poet named Bruno Leardi is one of the victims. He has persuaded the High Court in Madrid to accept his case.
Lawyer Melendez says that he and Monica’s father will be flying to Madrid to handle Mr. Leardi’s court case, but that in the future Monica and her mother must also testify. The family has a barbecue together and her father and mother dance the tango and then Monica dances the tango with her father.
The press start asking Monica questions when she arrives at work. A co-worker tells her that the older woman is back again watching the nursery. Monica goes down to confront the woman about following her. She calls her a witch. The woman responds that Monica needs to take a blood test.
Pablo meets her after work. He wants to talk with her. He tells her that he is on her side in these troubled days. He also tells her that he likes her. Her mother arrives to pick her up and Monica gives him a kiss good-bye.
At home she sees on television demonstrations in Argentina in which her father is called a torturer and killer. Bruno Leardi is also on television. He accuses her father on July 13, 1979 of being one of the men responsible for grabbing his son and Spanish-born daughter-in-law and his granddaughter Diana Leardi. He says that her father ran a Clandestine Detention Center where it was common practice to torture and then kill prisoners.
Monica takes the day-off from work. She goes to the university to pick up her boyfriend. In the library Pablo is on the internet looking up the story about Bruno Leardi’s attempts to get his granddaughter back. The article mentions the death flights. Erigaray tortured the prisoners and every Wednesday a group was chosen, drugged, put onto a plane and dropped into the River Plate. While waiting for Luis’s class to finish, Monica stops a minute to talk with Pablo and he quickly gets off the internet.
Monica talks with Luis, but he does not validate her feelings. He just takes her father’s side, which does not please Monica.. She goes home and goes through her baby and childhood pictures with her mother. She asks her mother if her father was a mechanic as he claims or a soldier in Argentina? Mom says he was a chauffeur at first and then worked in the military vehicles depot.
Dad and lawyer return from Madrid. The press asks Monica if she is going to take a blood test. At home dad tells Monica that she will probably be asked to take a blood test, but she has a right to refuse. She is willing to take the blood test, but her parents keep insisting it is a humiliation and she doesn’t have to take the test.
At a café the next day she talks with Luis again about her troubles. And again Luis takes her father’s side. She gets disgusted and leaves. Outside she sees a lot of posters of Diana Leardi and she tears down a few of them. She also sees Pablo and asks him to give her a ride. Pablo is able to get away from the car following them. They go to a beach and go skinny-dipping. Later they kiss a few times in the car.
The Erigary family just cannot get away from their troubles. At their church, there is a demonstration in support of those trying to find their missing relatives that the Argentine military simple disappeared..
Bruno arrives in Spain. He is greeted by the older woman named Matilde who followed Monica. The poet then talks for a short time with the press. We find out that Matilde had her own grandchild named Silvia torn from her by the Argentine military when she was just a baby. Bruno talks with Silvia about her experiences.
Bruno drives to Monica’s place of work and watches her through binoculars. He is absolutely certain she is Diana because she looks so much like his daughter-in-law. Bruno appears at the same lunch spot as Mr. And Mrs. Erigaray. Mrs. Erigary tells her to leave them alone.
Bruno goes to the library to speak with Pablo. The young students is surprised to see the learned poet. He asks Pablo about Luis and then Monica. He asks Pablo about how his granddaughter is handling the case emotionally. And he requests that Pablo try to get Monica to speak with him. Pablo doesn’t think it’s possible, but he will try.
Luis goes to Mr. Erigaray’s place of work. Erigary, Luis and the security fellow all show up at the ship dock where Monica speaks with Pablo. Her father tells Pablo to stay out of his family’s business. The security fellow hits Pablo in the stomach in an attempt to get him to tell where Bruno is staying. Monica tells them.
Erigary tries to talk with Bruno at his hotel, but Bruno just says that he will not talks with murderers. So Erigary sends up the tough guy who tells Bruno to get out of town or Erigaray will send him to hell to join his son. Bruno calls Pablo to check in with him. He tells him that he would like him to be his granddaughter’s boyfriend.
Monica is very mad at her father and will not talk to him or her mother. Late at night Monica sneaks into another room to go through her childhood memorabilia. She even listens to a tape where her parents are teaching her her full name and their names. She cries.
Madrid . Mrs. Erigaray and Monica are in Madrid to attend the trial. She goes to talk with Bruno to tell him that she is not his granddaughter. Bruno tells her that her father ran the concentration camp where his son and daughter-in-law were held. Her father tortured and killed people in the camp. Monica says it was war and people do terrible things in war. (Actually, it wasn’t war but the actions of a military dictatorship in Argentina.) Bruno insists that she look at some of the pictures of his son and daughter with their baby. In one of the pictures she sees the fancy drinking cup that her father and mother own. As she leaves to go to the court session, Monica cries.
In court, a witness points out Mr. Erigaray was her torturer, known to her as the "Toad". She also testifies that Bruno’s son and daughter-in-law were in the camp and that they had a baby. Then Bruno gets to tell his story. He mentions the illegal birth certificate made for Monica two years after she was born. He also has evidence that Mrs. Erigaray had an operation to remove her womb before Monica was born. Monica says it’s a lie. She defends her parents and says she does not care what they did. She breaks down crying.
Monica and Pablo are outside her old home. Her co-worker from the nursery goes into the house to take out Monica’s personal belongings. Monica goes into the house for a minute and returns with the fancy drinking cup.
On television the reports says that the court has released Ernesto Erigary and his wife on bail. Both must report to the judge every day until they are tried for the abduction, torture and death of the Spanish citizen Sara Pereira, the abduction of Diana Leardi and the usurpation of her identity. The results of the DNA test for Monica prove that she is not the Erigarays’ daughter but Diego Leardi and Sara Pereira’s, who were murdered in Buenos Aires twenty years ago.
Monica lives with her co-worker. Bruno returns home to Argentina. Time will have to pass and he will have to wait.
Buenos Aires, one year later. Diana gets permission to visit the home where her parents lived when they were kidnapped. She cries. Later she throws a bouquet of flowers into the ocean for her parents. She then walks to the square known as the Plaza de Mayo outside the Pink House (the government house). Demonstrations are going on to protest against the actions of the military dictatorship. She sees a large round structure with thousands of pictures of disappeared people. She then joins in on the demonstration led by the mothers and grandmothers of disappeared children.
She goes to Bruno’s apartment building and rings him on the intercom. He answers and is so shocked that he cannot say anything. The movie ends with Diana waiting outside to see her grandfather.
The movie is "dedicated to the mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and to those who resist the abduction of our memories."
Good movie. Interesting movie, but it was spoiled a bit for me because I have seen so many movies dealing with the brutality and torture used by the Argentine military dictatorship. But I still enjoyed it. For those who know nothing about Argentina or very little, it will prove to be a captivating story. Irene Visedo as Mónica Erigaray was very good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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