Dispatches from the MSPIFF—Part Three

4.11.14

The Cleaner
*** (out of 4 stars)
El-limpiadorEusebio is a forensic cleaner in Lima, Peru who is tasked with cleaning up sites where people have died of the mysterious and virulent “Lima Epidemic.” At one site, Eusebio discovers a young boy, Joaquin, hiding in a closet, whom he takes under his wing until he can locate Joaquin’s family. In the process, Eusebio, a sheltered man, unmarried, unobtrusive, whose very job is to tidy up messes, keeping chaos at bay, finds himself opening up as Joaquin becomes part of his life. In many ways, the story of a man who has closed off the world only to finally meet it with love and joy late in life, is pretty familiar, and The Cleaner hits many of the beats one would expect in such a story. But the movie is also understated, downplaying those moments, and has a sincere sweetness that avoids sentimentality until its final moments, when death ceases merely to be a backdrop for the story and takes center stage.

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