In his directorial debut iGilbert, actor Adrian Martinez plays Gilbert Gonzalez – a diabetic, joker-ified, thirtysomething virgin who is pornographically obsessed with photographing women without their knowledge. His social seclusion has lead him to retreat into a fantasy world built around memories of his abusive father and a sexualised fascination with the tenant in the apartment below the one he shares with his mother.
Gilbert lives a fairly sad life cooped up with his indulgent mother Carmen (Socorro Santiago), the owner of the building. Her pathological doting on and overfeeding of Gilbert, as well as the abuse they suffered at the hands of his Charlie Chaplin-superfan father Rodolfo (Emilio Delgado) are the main factors contributing the social and physical pathologies that reinforce Gilbert’s social isolation.
Gilbert spends his time making repairs in the building and indulging his predilection for scrutinising and cataloguing creepshots taken in his building and on commuter rail trains. Or as Gilbert puts it, “I watch porn and I fix things.” Inexplicably, his sad life takes a turn for the better when an awkward conversation with the downstairs tenant Jana (Dascha Polanko) precipitates a warm connection, which may have had something to do with the violent ex-boyfriend Tony (Raul Castillo) she’s trying to get rid of. This is coupled with an unexpected silver lining to his dark habit, when his secret filming of a woman on a train incidentally captures a rapist loudly proclaiming the exact details of a recent attack.
What follows is a bizarre, oddly-paced story of the title character’s love and fame mediated totally by screens and cameras – watching and being watched. The only perspectives we definitely get are those of the ill and evil men (Gilbert and Tony) whose attentions are laser-focused on Jana, an aspiring dancer. Although she seems to achieve independence from them by the end, it is never fully clear how much of the plot and dialogue are real or filtered through the debauched mind of the title character.
At its best, iGilbert is an engrossing exploration of social isolation and intergenerational trauma, through issues of perception and subjectivity which mobile phones and the digital age aggravate. However, it suffers from jarring and confusing pacing, and its character’s occasionally mystifying motivations running up against your suspended disbelief.
iGilbert premiered at Manchester International Film Festival on the 14th of March.