"Hawaii" tells the poignant story of two men -- childhood friends who become reacquainted in adulthood -- who find friendship and love despite obstacles and setbacks. It is a slow-paced film that is rich in character development, and memorable in its powerful ending.
At the center of the film are two protagonists, Eugenio and Martin. Eugenio, portrayed by Manuel Vignau, is a gay writer spending the summer at his aunt and uncle’s lakeside house in Argentina while he works on his novel. One day, Martin, played by Mateo Chiarino, shows up at Eugenio’s gate seeking work for the summer. It turns out that Martin is homeless and living in the nearby woods. Eugenio quickly hires Martin to be the handyman at his family’s home. As the summer wears on and temperatures rise (and clothing is shed), Martin and Eugenio recall their childhood friendship and catch up on each other’s lives. They share their goals (for Eugenio, his novel) and their heartaches (for Martin, his homelessness). Martin slowly wends his way into a mercurial Eugenio’s mind and heart as Eugenio shows concern, compassion, and desire for his down-on-his-luck employee. Before long, an undeniable and unavoidable attraction builds between the two men, setting the stage for conflict, heartache, and passion.
Aside from brief appearances by a few minor characters, "Hawaii" is all about Martin and Eugenio. Vignau and Chiarino masterfully carry the film, which is told in Spanish with English subtitles. Their performance are riveting, their chemistry palpable.
"Hawaii" takes its time establishing its characters, their circumstances, and the friendship and attraction between Eugenio and Martin. Remarkably, for a good portion of the film, that is achieved with little to no dialogue. For instance, the first fifteen minutes of "Hawaii" are presented with sparse dialogue, and instead use actors’ actions, movements, and reactions, and music to establish the characters and advance the story. It’s a device that works beautifully.
The build-up to the eventual romance between the two men is equally slow. There is no instant gratification here. Instead, screenwriter Marco Berger seems to follow the words of soap opera creator/writer Agnes Nixon who said the trick to writing and engaging the audience is to "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait." Berger does that throughout "Hawaii." As a result, the viewer cannot help but find himself swept away by the friendship and passion between these two men.