Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person left who still sends postcards, so it is reassuring to periodically encounter a fellow scribbler. Such a character turns up in “Hermia &Helena,” and it’s one of many enchanting little touches in this deceptively loose-framed movie.
The film comes from the talented Argentinean director Matias Pineiro (“Viola”), whose work appears whimsical but is always complicatedly layered. The title refers to characters in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” specifically two women caught in that play’s romantic confusion.
In fact, our main character, Camila (Agustina Munoz), is translating the Shakespeare play into Spanish during a fellowship year in New York City. She reluctantly left Buenos Aires, because she’d only recently gotten seriously attached to a boyfriend there.
She plans to leave snowy New York as soon as she can, but there are distractions. An old boyfriend lives there, and the manager (Keith Poulson) of her fellowship program seems attentive.
There are the postcards, too. They are addressed to Camila’s friend Carmen (Maria Villar), who has finished her fellowship and gone back to Argentina. The cards from an unknown woman pose another mystery, although when the sender (Mati Diop) turns up it raises more questions than answers.
Finally, Camila decides to look up another old connection (played by indie filmmaker Dan Sallitt). This plot turn allows the film to become more poignant, especially during a session where the two people ask each other questions they’ve written down.
As in Pineiro’s previous films, everybody talks really fast, as though they’re in a screwball comedy. This works better in Spanish than in English, but it adds to the slightly dizzy atmosphere (playfully scored to some old Scott Joplin rags).
“Hermia &Helena” is full of detours, side trips and telling details. A single close-up of a forgotten pair of gray gloves provides a definitive statement on how devoted Camila is to her boyfriend, and a time-out for a short black-and-white film assembled by Camila’s ex is another angle on romantic longing.
Things are never quite what they seem in this film’s mischievous scheme, and although this idea feels breezy as it’s playing out, there’s something essential and very human about that observation. Life isn’t pre-ordained or definitive, Pineiro suggests, and nor should movies be.
“Hermia &Helena” (3 stars)
While on a New York fellowship to translate Shakespeare into Spanish, a Buenos Aires woman (Agustina Munoz) finds herself gravitating toward a variety of men. Director Matias Pineiro makes this situation breezy and full of possibilities, a playful game of storytelling that rather resembles life. In English and Spanish, with English subtitles.
Rating: Not rated, probably PG-13 for subject matter
Opening Friday: Northwest Film Forum