Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen has taken the roles of men from Austria, Russia and Middle-earth, but “Everybody Has a Plan” marks his first time playing someone from the country where he spent much of his childhood: Argentina. In fact, he impersonates two Argentines: vocationally distinct but similarly brooding twins Pedro and Agustin.
The brothers grew up in a rustic, Louisiana-like bayou near urbane Buenos Aires, but then took separate paths. Agustin moved to the city, where he became a pediatrician. Pedro stayed along the river, collecting honey from his beehives and occasionally helping a childhood friend, Adrian (Daniel Fanego), with his business: kidnapping for ransom.
The siblings haven’t had much to do with each other recently, but they now face separate crises that briefly reunite them. Bearded Pedro is spitting up blood and preparing to die. Clean-shaven Agustin is sick of his existence, and doesn’t want to take responsibility for the infant his wife, Claudia (Soledad Villamil), has arranged to adopt. (Has the baby doctor just noticed he doesn’t like kids?)
One death, one switch and some beard-growing later, Agustin is living as Pedro, tending the bees and beginning a romance with the childlike but not-so-innocent woman who has long helped with the hives, Rosa (Sofia Gala Castiglione). Being Pedro requires Agustin to deal with brutal cops, as well as local friends and enemies who seem equally dangerous. This includes the Bible-quoting Adrian, who expects Agustin/Pedro to help him abduct his latest victim.
First-time director Ana Piterbarg, who also co-scripted, spends about as much time setting up Pedro’s illness — cough, cough — as Agustin’s existential crisis. With almost no backstory, the burden falls on Mortensen to express his character’s anguish, using his eyes more than words. He executes some nice maneuvers, notably during a scene in which a mystified Claudia visits the man she thinks is her brother-in-law. But the actor can add only so much meaning to an underwritten character and a story whose gangster-movie developments establish a vague feeling of unease rather than any sense of urgency.
Largely a mood piece, the movie makes evocative use of the picturesque delta, while taking its leisurely rhythm from the slow-moving Parana River. The ironic title comes from a conversation between Rosa and Agustin, in which she reveals her life’s design while he insists he has none. As “Everybody Has a Plan” meanders to its close, it almost seems that Piterbarg, too, has no particular course in mind.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
R. At Angelika Film Center. Contains violence, profanity, sexuality. In Spanish with English subtitles. 118 minutes.