Review: Santi

Written and directed by Harry Richards, a young Colombian man receives a voice message from home while grappling with cultural differences at a London dinner party with his new English girlfriend. Starring: Jon Gutierrez, Zulekha Chaka, Holly Cattle, Kieran Slade, Oliver Asante, Ed Piercy and Elizabeth Connick.

Behind Santi is an interesting concept questioning how accepting people are and how people can use cultural differences to create unnecessary barriers. It generates an atmosphere tinged with awkwardness and discomfort, trying to blend into an unknown environment and other people not making it easy for you. It also then brings through another side exploring how we can find comfort in family. Touching on how even in an unfamiliar place, when you’re struggling, a loved one’s voice can bring you right back and be the mood-altering lift you needed.

Visually it dives in with an unusual palette, heavily favouring a yellow and orange colouring. It sets the tone for a party style atmosphere, having Santi (Jon Gutierrez) being thrown in at the deep end, meeting his girlfriend’s friends all at once and trying to make a good impression. Though while the glossy, rich tones are well done, they miss out on building more emotional depth. It creates the feeling that there’s a lot going on and doesn’t entirely give the space for its story to grow in the time that it has. It does build some good tension but without taking time to establish the relationship and create a bigger connection between them, it’s missing something to drive a bigger feeling or destination. Although the ending scene does do a better job of bringing through some extra personality and warmth but unfortunately it comes a little late.

Part of that being Santi and Violet (Zulekha Chaka) not feeling like a natural couple. It feels as though there’s a wall between them, which may be intended as an example of the cultural differences but it also creates a distance. Their relationship feels fairly superficial, Chaka is presenting us with a fairly vain and selfish character, which when matched with Gutierrez’s sweet and kind Santi, the chemistry isn’t really there. It adds a touch more coldness to the mix and there’s a few strange additions which don’t ease things along. The key one being the dinner party element, the atmosphere it builds and the type of characters in the background, drinking and taking drugs, in their early 20s, doesn’t quite fit with a sit-down meal.

Santi has a good foundation, asking some interesting questions about acceptance, family and cultural differences but it can’t quite get a grasp on a deeper emotion. The central couple don’t feel like an organic match so while the direction is solid, it’s struggling to build something deeper or a bigger reason to draw you in. Jon Gutierrez gives us a great character in Santi and he has a lot of potential but it doesn’t feel like we get to see it all here.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

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