Young Hunter

El Cazador (Marco Berger) - Review

By Young Film Critic Beatrice Loayza

Marco Berger’s El Cazador (or Young Hunter) opens with the ominous image of a spider, delicately spinning webs over a grey, lifeless backdrop. Considering the menacing-sounding title, and the Argentinian director’s commitment to exploring the intricacies of (typically gay, male) desire with films like Plan B, The Blonde One, and Absent, the promise of illicit, even treacherous romance feels particularly strong. But this feeling doesn’t play out the way you’d expect.

The film blends harsh truths about the cultural realities of being a young gay man in Argentina with notes of Hitchcockian suspense. The result is a story pregnant with anticipation, one that voyeuristically revels in a charged economy of glances, and touts the secret thrills of looking and being looked at while navigating the private, interior life of a teenager.

Ezéquiel (Juan Pablo Cestero) is a young man who, after a coming-of-age encounter on a trip abroad triggers his sexual appetite, is struggling to satisfy his urges. When his parents leave him for an extended home-alone stay while they vacation in Europe, Ezéquiel invites over friends with the hope that their potentially closeted desires will be teased out in solitude. Rather than seem predatory, Ezéquiel’s efforts come more so from a place of loneliness, and the desire for intimate companionship. His attempts to court other boys mostly come to embarrassing or awkward ends. This changes, however, when Ezéquiel meets a handsome, tattooed stranger, Mono, at a skatepark. Their romance, both physical and emotional, snowballs into what Ezéquiel understands as his first legitimate relationship. This dream begins to crack, however, when Mono introduces Ezéquiel to his shady older "cousin," and both boys are pulled in as victims and perpetrators of a blackmail scam targeting young, gay men.

Reminiscent of L’inconnu du lac, Alain Guiraudie’s 2014 psychosexual thriller, El Cazador understands the similarities between fear and desire, and how these feelings coelesce into a particularly queer erotic experience in a context that exploits and threatens queerness. Unlike Guiraudie’s film, El Cazador lacks any of that film’s displays of graphic sexuality. Such restraint successfully creates an altogether different, more tender and emotionally fraught understanding of desire. Young actor Juan Pablo Cestero is beautifully vulnerable in this lead role, projecting courage, fragility, and deep hunger onto his soft-spoken, introverted character. Despite the film’s ever-looming peril of discovery and violence, Berger injects a deep sense of pathos and warmth into his characters, who persist in their difficult journeys to living life more honestly.