Actor-turned-filmmaker Leonardo Brzezicki’s devastatingly impactful drama Wandering Heart (Errante corazón), is a stunning showcase for the talents of Leonardo Sbaraglia who fills every frame with a brokenness that transcends the screen. This is a fantastic performance that is worth the price of admission all on its own.
It starts with an orgy, every room filled with men talking and fucking. Santiago (Sbaraglia) wanders around naked, soaking in the sweat and skin. As the party reaches a pause the men talk and eat, wrapped around each other and discuss the banalities of life like paying rent and family expectations; after their moments of ecstasy the real world creeps back in.
Santiago is successful and handsome but his life of parties no longer sustains him like it did in his youth. The realities of his life—an ex-partner who left him, a daughter who rages against him, and his own creeping age—are piling up against him and there is no escape. He feels empty, and can’t fill the void.
Wandering Heart isn’t the first film to explore the existential angst of ageing gay men, but stands out thanks to Sbaraglia. His Santiago is vivacious and bereft at the same time. The deep sadness at his core seeps out in his increasingly desperate escapades.
Watching this pain reflected in the lives around him is equally heartbreaking. When Santiago turns up at his ex’s house unexpectedly, with his mother and daughter in tow, his ex-lover Luis (a terrifically wounded performance by Alberto Ajaka) suppresses his own rage to be polite. Santiago’s daughter Laila (Miranda de la Serna) is as tumultuous as he is, a girl left adrift with useless parents.
A poetic subtlety fills each moment. There is a quick, wordless scene in which Santiago sees two schoolboys across a busy street, one comforting the other. There is no context to what has happened. Was the boy bullied? Are they boyfriends? But there is a look of recognition in Santiago’s eyes. In another scene, Santiago—naked and fueled by drugs and booze—delivers a poolside lip-sync to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching.
Brzezicki sends Santiago out in search of connection with a series of hookups that prove enjoyable, but ultimately empty. No one will stay with him. Pedro Sotero’s cinematography seduces us with these romances, then abruptly abandons us when they are over.
Wandering Heart (Errante corazón) is a portrait of a man who never learned what real love is, and has uncovered an emptiness at the core of the gay life we are often told to aspire to. Fucking is easy, loving ourselves is harder. But this isn’t a depressing, nihilistic look at gay life. The film comes full circle, returning to the scene of the opening orgy in a completely different light. Maybe Santiago can learn the life lesson he needs from the look of a child? Maybe not. Who knows?
By Chad Armstrong
Wandering Heart (Errante corazón) receives its Sydney Premiere at Queer Screen’s 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival running in cinemas in Sydney and on demand Australia-wide from February 15th to March 2nd, 2023. Click here for tickets and more information.
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