12 tells the story of Erica and Antonio (Alessandra de Rossi and Ivan Padilla), who are at odds with each other at the onset of the movie. Antonio has just proposed, but Erica, feeling stifled and listless in their relationship, doesn’t give him a yes. The film then largely takes place the day after, where the two are forced to deal with the fallout of her response, all their emotional baggage brought out into the open as they explore and argue over all the things that went wrong in their relationship.
So the film stays with the characters in the present while they argue about all manner of things, but it occasionally cut back to little scenes from the past that elaborate on the rift that grew between the couple. Or rather, elaborate on the increasingly bad behavior of Antonio, who turns out to be a pretty awful person. He’s moody, controlling, temperamental and prone to stumbling home drunk. The film firmly picks a side in this conflict, Antonio pretty much written to be a complete child in the guise of an adult man, basically keeping Erica a prisoner in her own home, his ego consuming the entirety of her identity.
This makes a lot of the movie pretty insufferable to sit through. The more we learn about Antonio’s weaknesses, the more we see of his bad behavior, the more unreasonable it seems that Erica stuck around for so long. The movie doesn’t invest much in showing the good parts of their coupling. There are a few scenes here and there, but it never really makes much of a case for what is being lost in their parting. And so, in the scenes set in the present, it starts to feel silly that Erica doesn’t just walk out, and that she continues to entertain the abuse of this apparently bipolar monster. And then the film goes on to add a strange layer of sentiment to the toxicity in which these two characters seem inured.
In fact, the way things play out, the movie seems to be actively taking away the agency of Erica in this regard, making her completely incapable of just leaving under her own volition. It’s a real thematic problem, because her freedom, up to the very end, seems contingent on the choices of Antonio. It isn’t so much about a woman taking back her identity, but a man being chastised enough into finally granting the woman a measure of her own power. Stilted dialogue only serves to make things worse. Characters tend to speak in labored idioms that just don’t feel real.
Alessandra de Rossi plays the lead of this film, but she is also credited as the writer. If nothing else, the material does feel personal, and her familiarity with it allows for a performance that feels heartfelt even in moments that don’t quite ring true. Less successful in this movie is Ivan Padilla, who isn’t at all convincing while depicting the couple’s few happier moments, and only becomes less engaging once the character gets into darker emotions. To be fair, the character is written really badly, but even so, Padilla is unable to make any part of this performance appealing.
12 really tests one’s patience. And it isn’t just because it’s a movie that pretty much two people talking in one location for the entirety of its runtime. Conversation can be compelling, of course, and there are truly gripping movies that do the same. But the content and the context of these conversations matter. Content-wise, the film feels trite and tedious. And in terms of context, the film doesn’t make it feel like all this talk should be happening at all. Erica should be walking off into the sunset, into a happier life without the permission of the man who made her so miserable.
12 IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.