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Toronto Review: ‘Cromo’ Puts the Sexy Back Into Environmental Studies

Toronto Review: 'Cromo' Puts the Sexy Back Into Environmental Studies

These days, it seems as though they can make a television
show about anything. Serial killers. Bored housewives. Men dressing as women in
order to get jobs. Accidentally artificially inseminated virgins. The list goes
on and on, yet the one thing all of these shows have in common is this: sex.
Visceral, subjective or somewhere in between, steamy sexy times is pretty much
a prerequisite when it comes to selling a television series.

READ MORE: The 2015 Indiewire TIFF Bible: All the Reviews, Interviews and News Posted During The Festival

So it should come as no surprise that Argentina’s latest
television offering, “Cromo,” is as much about a love triangle as it is
environmental studies, crime and murder.

The 12-part mini opens when Valentina (Emilia Attias), an
idealistic and beautiful scientist, travels to the swamp town of Corrientes to
analyze the local water supply, which is being tainted by poachers. When she’s
asked to leave but doesn’t there are deadly consequences, which force her
husband Diego (Guillermo Pfening) and his research partner Simon (German
Palacios) to leave their own mission in the Antarctic.

As the pair attempts to piece together the events
surrounding Valentina’s death, it quickly becomes apparent to Diego that his
best friend and wife were having a hot-and-heavy affair. Through the use of
flashbacks and exposition it doesn’t take long to figure out just how involved
Valentina and Simon actually were, a fact that begins to blur Diego’s vision
when it comes to finding his wife’s killer.

Finding that killer, however, quickly proves tougher than it
originally seemed. At first glance this is a cut-and-dry mystery involving
poachers and a young woman trying to set her corner of the world right. But as
the narrative digs in, it become apparent that there are more hands involved in
this cover-up, with connections reaching as far back as Valentina’s home life.

“Cromo” was created by brother-and-sister duo Lucia Puenzo
and Nicolas Puenzo, who also direct the series alongside Pablo Fendrik. The
entire series is cued up to premiere this October on Argentina’s Argentine
public TV via production company Historias Cinematograficas. Outside of the
Americas, it has also been acquired by Europe’s Pyramide International, but has
not found a U.S. broadcaster at time of press.

Episodes 1, 2 and 8 (along with a teaser trailer for
episodes 3-7) were made available during a screening at the inaugural Primetime
component of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, rolled together
in a feature film format. Wedging a scripted miniseries about environmental
crimes in between star-studded films and high-profile documentaries is perhaps off-brand,
especially considering the hype surrounding some of the other inaugural
Primetime selections (“Heroes: Reborn,” Baltasar Kormakur’s “Trapped”). “Cromo,”
however, is a project worth checking out on the big screen for the
cinematography alone.

Sweeping wetlands and breathtaking shots from the Antarctic
(where the husband and best friend are putting their own lives at risk for the
environment in a completely different way), give the impression that this is a
big budget project at its visual best. Some of the most memorable scenes
throughout the proffered episodes involve very little dialogue, with the
television makers relying instead on camera angles and strong, sometimes
overpowering instrumentals to capture the essence of the story.

When the trio of actors are called to task for some heavy
lifting, they deliver the perfect balance of passion, intrigue and immediacy, which
drives the plot forward as each episode unravels more clues about the killer’s
identity and motives.

Aside from the sexy love triangle the project brings, the
story itself is based on the real-life stories of a team of scientists who set
out to expose eco-crimes and hazards going on in northern Argentina. It all
culminates in a tale of trust both on a personal and professional level, as the
story digs into the extent of what the people behind big name corporations will
do to the environment—and their fellow human being—in order to turn a maximum
profit and stay afloat.

It’s a dark, David versus Goliath type tale that often isn’t
told in television and film—mostly for the lack of that aforementioned sex
appeal—but is perhaps one of the most relevant stories being told in the face
of today’s political landscape and the ever-changing climate.

Grade: B

READ MORE: Toronto: ‘Trapped’ Creator Baltasar Kormakur on Getting Into TV and Celebrating Iceland

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