What is most effective in Con Amor is what is left unsaid. A classic moral parable, the film refuses to make explicit its implicit meanings, and this uncertainty elevates writer/director Cole Webley’s handsome production into something great.
A young, single mother is awakened in the middle of the night by her Brother. Bleeding copiously, she notices his knuckles are busted as well. Somewhere on the streets of Santiago is another boy, lying in an unknown state. Maybe it’s bad. She knows a bit about being in a bad state—her face, though pretty, is marked by angry and prominent scar that hints at bygone trauma. She references the time that a stranger saved her, and as a trained nurse, she ventures out to find the unknown boy in an attempt to engage with her own past. She succeeds, but perhaps not in the way she expected.
It is very difficult to be ambiguous in a short, every stray detail that is placed in order to build depth or foreshadow future action has a tendency to stick out blatantly in the course of a short runtime, and if one is too inscrutable the result is simply dissatisfying. With Con Amor, Webley strikes a nice compromise—the film is not difficult to follow as its elements are all telegraphed and combined in a simple scene structure, but the interrelations of the elements must be interpreted.
The following musings are spoilers for the film, so take a break and watch now if you haven’t yet done so.
Obviously the confrontation with her brother’s victim is the key scene in the film, and is the moment in which the character breaks with her altruistic intentions in a flash of (assumed) violence. But what is the nature of her action? With the wallet, it seems as though she is motivated by protecting her brother, but we also know there is a connection between the boy and the scar on her face. It would be relatively straightforward if he was himself the abuser, or somehow related to the abuser, but there is no hint of recognition between the two until she spies his gang tattoo. Furthermore, the boy suggests that his gang beat and killed a man who did the same kind of violence to his cousin. Is this a deflection on his part? It’s highly likely—obviously a man in a vulnerable position wouldn’t want to admit that it was his gang that committed violence against her, and it would explain the heretofore unexplained reason why her brother targeted him in the first place. But was the boy responsible for our protagonist’s disfigurement? Or is he guilty-by-association? Does this make her actions a more sinister turn if this connection is indirect? Or is her primary motivation simply to eliminate a threat to her brother? Hanging above it all—who is the father of her child?
There is an assumed story path through all these questions, and it’s a fine story, but Webley takes little chunks of confirmation out, and these small ellipses, while not fundamentally altering or obscuring the structure of the story, succeed in making a more traditional revenge story more interesting. We’re not even given the satisfaction of knowing that she did in fact take her revenge. While this is not a strategy I would recommend very frequently to up-and-coming filmmakers, Webley pulls it off here.
I have yet to share any aspect of the production that I admire, but it is uniformly excellent. Webley is an accomplished commercial director—his Super Bowl commercial this year was the famous and controversial Lumber 84 ad, which itself shows off his interests in narrative. Aside from commercial projects, he is currently working on a trilogy of short films about love, loss, and life. Two of the films are finished and the third is in pre-production. Webley plans to release them all online after the third film is finished.