When Julio's (Diego Noguera) college lit teacher asks how many in the class have read the classic novel Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, almost everyone raises their hands and so he follows suit. After earnestly purchasing the novel, he falls asleep in the sun on the beach with it on his chest. He wakes up with a sunburn around the shape of the book. Despite this physical reminder of his intentions to read the book, he never gets around to it. He tells his cute and rebellious new girlfriend Emilia (Nathalia Galgani), who has a self-destructive streak, that he finished it. She is not impressed. They have a passionate relationship until she moves on; the narrator in the opening of Bonsai lets us know that in the end of the film, she dies and Julio lives.
Years later, the aspiring writer has his big moment when he meets Gazmuri (Hugo Medina), a famous novelist who wants him to type his latest work. But a while later, the job is snatched away. Now dating Bianca (Trinidad Gonzales), a translator, Julio tells her that he's still working on Gazmuri's novel. What he is really doing is writing his own story of first love with Emilia. When he asks her to respond to the new work, Bianca says of Gazmuri, "Deep down he's a poor guy with a broken heart." Put her at the head of the class for that right-on evaluation of the novel's author.
Bonsai is a Chilean film directed by Cristian Jimenez based on a literary hit by Alejandro Zambra about love, books, and bonsai — those dwarf trees known for their asymmetrical beauty and simplicity. Although the storyline jumps around too much, we can buy into Julio's commitment to writing a novel; he does stick to the project by handwriting the copy in notebooks. But when it comes down to his intimate relationships, he is emotionally stunted. There is an asymmetrical beauty to this film which maintains our interest even with its flaws. Like the bonsai, Julio tenderly looks after, this small film deserves to be given a chance to bloom.
Special features on the DVD include interview with Cristian Jimenez