South America, 1960. You can probably guess at the background of the eponymous German doctor (Àlex Brendemühl) who befriends a Patagonian family and slowly inveigles his way into their very heart. Impressionable 12-year-old Lilith (Florencia Bado) falls for his seeming charm the moment they meet, though her mom, Eva (Natalia Oreiro), isn’t far behind. Soon he is living in the lakeside hotel the family operates, investing in dad Enzo’s (Diego Peretti) custom dollmaking business, and making medical suggestions for how undersized Lilith — who looks like an eight-year-old and is teased at school as a “dwarf” — might jumpstart her growth and kickstart her delayed adolescence. Argentina’s official submission to the most recent Academy Awards is from writer-director Lucía Puenzo, who crafts a slow-build of creepy tension that is all the more chilling for how much of the events here are seen through the innocent eyes of Lilith, who hasn’t got the first clue about the menace their friend and lodger represents. The subtle veil of horror Puenzo drapes over things we take for granted as good and wonderful aspects of humanity — the fresh and adventurous naiveté of childhood; a mother’s desire to give her children the best start in life — is deeply unsettling, and its eerieness will linger with you in unexpected ways.
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