Tribeca Film Festival 2018: ‘Dry Martina’

by Adrienne McIlvaine (@mizocty)

What starts out as a wily sex comedy ends up a meditation on love and loneliness in Dry Martina, the latest from Chilean writer-director Che Sandoval.

The title, a clever play on words, encapsulates everything we need to know about Martina (Antonella Costa), the aging and raging Argentinian pop star at the center of the film; she loves to drink and hasn’t had sex in years. She walks out of gigs her long-suffering manager books for her, a depressed diva with a horny cat, an apartment full of houseplants, and a damaged heart.

Francisca (Geraldine Neary, delightfully nervous), an obsessive fan of Martina’s, is convinced that the singer is actually her long-lost older sister, and, in a funny but cringeworthy scene, explains her theory to the decidedly non-plussed singer. But Fran does have something that interests Martina; an on-again-off again boyfriend named Cesar (Pedro Campos), who ends up in her bed for a one-night stand that kickstarts her long-dormant libido.

So when Cesar heads back to Chile, Martina does the only thing she can think of: she tells her manager to look after the cat and the plants and books a one-way ticket to Santiago for an unannounced international hook-up.

It’s easy to see all the paths the film could have taken; a Fatal Attraction type thriller…or a raunchier How Stella Got Her Groove Back. But there’s a pivotal scene early on when Martina and Cesar are lounging in bed, post-coitus, where he innocently inquires about her sexual history (but seriously, who does this?) and slowly, terribly, begins to see in Martina what she cannot see in herself: a desperate need for attention and approval that masks some deeper hurt. Costa is a marvel to watch in this intimate, searing scene that gives the arrogant and overconfident Martina unexpected depth.

From Francisca’s stubborn belief that they’re related to the multiple mentions of Juliana, Martina’s famous mother who died when she was young, everyone is striving to find a piece of themselves in someone else. The simple sitcom premise of finding out if Fran and Martina really are related becomes almost irrelevant as Martina begrudgingly comes to love and trust Fran in a way that doesn’t need DNA verification. Their easygoing chemistry and sisterly bickering, coupled with Sandoval’s naturalistic direction, gives the film a sense of joy, freedom, and sadness that rings true to anyone who’s had friendships that inevitably turn into something much deeper.

Even when the latter half of the film starts to meander through a series of increasingly humbling encounters, the best of which is Martina’s cathartic night out with Fran’s sweet and sensitive father, it gets by on the affection it’s built up for these slightly damaged, good-intentioned people who are just trying to get by. The final, quietly devastating scene isn’t so much an ending as a beginning, where like Martina herself, it’s impossible to predict what comes next.

Adrienne McIlvaine is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor covering film, TV, and pop culture. Find her at film festivals, museums, and the local cat cafe. 

About The Author

Hiko Mitsuzuka
Entertainment Editor-at-Large

Hiko Mitsuzuka is a self-proclaimed pop culture connoisseur who resides in L.A. and obsesses over songs months before everyone else obsesses over them. He has worked in TV and commercial production ever since he left his native New York in the early 00s. He has worked at the world-renowned Anonymous Content and Carsey-Werner and freelanced as a treatment writer for award-winning directors as well as a contributing writer for 'Instinct.' In addition to writing about entertainment and travel for 'Bello,' Hiko can currently be seen in the roles of Manager of Creative Planning at Stun Creative (PromaxBDA's North America Agency of the Year, 2013, 2014, 2017), film critic for ScreenPicks.com, and contributor for The Huffington Post. He's also currently working on the novel 'Slasher Movie Girl.' His obsessions include quoting old sitcom dialogue and stalking people on Instagram. His vices include chocolate chip cookies and movie theater popcorn. Tweet him @TheFirstEcho.

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