Ariel Makaroff (Daniel Hendler), the college dropout resisting adulthood in director and co-writer Daniel Burman’s captivating Berlin Film Festival prizewinner Lost Embrace, is uncomfortable in three societies. He’s restless in his immediate family, ambivalent about the thriving community of Argentinean Jews to which he belongs, and agitated by the other tenants in the Buenos Aires shopping mall where his mother (Adriana Aizenberg) runs a lingerie shop.
How Ariel comes to terms with the ethnically rich identity he has previously dismissed (he relies on his granny’s old-country birthplace to qualify for what he considers a more cosmopolitan Polish passport) is the story’s learn-and-grow goal (soapy secrets kept by an estranged father up the emotional ante). But it’s in the brightly observed vignettes from mall-society life, captured with a low-key, on-the-run visual style, that Burman shows his best stuff and deadpan wit. The neighbors in Ariel’s mall microcosm provide entertainment, but they’re never laughable. And Hendler, built with the compact, elastic handsomeness of an American sitcom star but with sadder eyes, fills Ariel with a kind of soulfulness it would probably kill the guy to admit he has.