Manuel Nieto Zas’ ironically-titled The Militant filters its reflection on political stagnation through a single, remarkable central character. The result is a powerful and thought-provoking film.

The film is set in 2002, when Uruguay was undergoing strikes and the universities had effectively closed down. 25-year-old Ariel Cruz, played by non-professional Felipe Dieste, is called away from a students’ union meeting to learn that his father has died. Ariel heads for his home town of Salto for the funeral. He meets his father’s partner Selva (Rossana Cabrera), gets involved with the local students’ union, and finds a little romantic interest with Nadia (Leonor Courtoisie).

Frustrated by the inability of the protesting students to do anything except go round in verbal circles, smoke weed and have parties, Ariel joins a hunger strike by protesting meat packers, which for the first time exposes him to the sharp end of economic hardship. It’s a comic, fish-out-of-water setup, but far more urgent themes are bubbling under the surface as Ariel ambles in apparent bafflement from one awkward situation to the next.

Jonathan Holland
The Hollywood Reporter