It's a premise guaranteed to send anyone scrambling for the nearest therapist's couch: Pampered and adored 15-year-old is plucked out of school and sent to a judge's chambers, where she discovers that the much-loved parents who've been spoiling her all these years aren't her parents at all. In an instant, she's snatched from her folks and sent to live with what remains of her real family, strangers whom she's never seen before.
So begins Gaston Biraben's directorial debut, "Captive", an Argentinian film set in 1994 and 1978 and loosely based on real events: During Argentina's military dictatorship, 74 children, the offspring of "disappeared" political dissidents, were "appropriated" and adopted by families friendly to the regime. Most of their parents, as is the case with Biraben's fictional Cristina, were murdered. (Approximately 30,000 were disappeared.)
Part thriller, part coming-of-age story, "Captive" murmurs along at a meditative pace as Cristina, played with gravity by Barbara Lombardo, struggles to adjust to her new life and to find out the truth of what really happened to her biological parents -- and whether her adoptive parents were complicit in their fate.
At times the film meanders a little too slowly, and Biraben, who also wrote the script, lays on the symbolism with too heavy a hand. Still, "Captive" is an intriguing tale, made vivid by assured performances and the weight of a country's troubled history.
Captive is 115 minutes long (in Spanish with English subtitles) and will be shown tonight at 9:30 and Saturday at 9:45 at Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin.