Here at Critical Popcorn, we’re proud to support low budget, independent films, and Shining Moon (El destello de la luna), straight from Chile, is a perfect example of this. From established director Gustavo Letelier, the President and CEO of Chilean film production company Amerindia Films, comes a tense melodrama with an important story.
Renato (Ricardo Herrea) is a proud man. He’s precious of his acting credentials and only chooses roles that speak to him. This makes finding and securing work difficult, despite regularly being offered parts (which he deems to be below him). His partner Ivan (Pablo Sotomayor Prat), also working within the creative industry, believes Renato has no place being so picky, and encourages him to take on job offers – while he spends the night with another man, Danilo (Nicolas Anjle).
With tensions building between Renato and Ivan, it’s serendipitous that Anibal (Maximiliano Meneses) lands on their doorstep. Anibal is a fresh, small-time director, looking for actors for his latest release. He approaches Renato for the lead role, who is initially offended. Asked to play an elderly transvestite, Renato believes he’s ‘above’ the role, while Ivan encourages him to take it. Together, the pair star as Lola and Ana, finding the characters (and themselves) along the way.
Much like Anibal, Gustavo Letelier is an all-rounder, having written, produced and directed Shining Moon. While low in budget, resulting in a lower standard of production compared to the pumped-up blockbusters we’re used to as a Western audience, this doesn’t detract from the precarious emotional undertones of the story and performances. Tackling an LGBTQ+ story such as this, set in a country where many are discriminated against, the actors approach their characters with precision and sensitivity.
Herrea’s Renato is hardworking and dedicated, but almost unlikable, while Prat’s Ivan is more relaxed in his demeanor; not meaning to side with someone so disloyal, but we can almost see why his eyes would be turned by Danilo, a younger, energised and more positive model. Focusing on a play within the film, Meneses’ Anibal takes the place of Letelier as director, and we see his/their vision through Anibal’s secondary camera lense, circling the actors as they take to the stage. Built as an extended duologue, Renato and Ivan establish Lola and Ana, but as they do so they start to realise that it’s down to the two of them to bring the excitement back to their relationship, and to heal old wounds along the journey.
While the low production values don’t detract from the performances, the muddled storyline is jarring, especially when mixed with Letelier’s flare for experimental shots and choice of cuts. We’re introduced to Danilo from the start, and are made to believe that Ivan will choose him or that he’ll be involved as a third person in the relationship. However, a third of the way through the film, he disappears and doesn’t return. Similarly, while Danilo disappears, Renato is involved in a short plot device involving a relative and their pet chicken. If used as a metaphor, it doesn’t work and just confuses the audience as to where the story is going.
Despite this, overall Shining Moon is an intense unpicking of one couple’s issues with one another, culminating in a renewal of their love through the shared passion for theatre. Fans of Pedro Almodóvar will be impressed.