the netflix movie without saying goodbye is a romantic drama with comedic tendencies and lots and lots of beautiful scenery. So prepare to get lost in countless drone shots of Peruvian mountaintops and Cusco cityscapes, and you just might find yourself lost in a romance between an architect and an artist. you know, opposites attract and all, but they sure seem to be more strongly magnetized when the background is this beautiful.
without saying goodbye: pass it on or skip it?
The gist: Salvador Campodonico (Maxi Iglesias) wakes up in zero darkness, his to-do list exploding on his phone. he goes to the gym and takes a shower so we can understand how he maintains the ripped physique that we’ll get multiple chances to look at throughout the movie. then he gets down to work, he is an architect for his father’s hotel conglomerate, the largest in spain. Salvador remodels hotels into gleaming eyesores or high-class urban beauties, depending on his point of view. He works so hard he makes the average workaholic look like Brad Pitt in True Romance.
His dream is to build a seven-star hotel in Cusco, Peru, but his demanding father has him in check, so he better build this monument to progress soon, or else. he flies to cuzco to inspect the place and determines that a large thing made of glass and concrete would look great in the middle of an old world city full of color, culture and tradition. He wants to give Lichi (Wendy Ramos) a huge amount of money for her property, and she is torn between getting rich as hell and maintaining the quaint hostel she’s run for many years.
Fate intervenes when Salvador accidentally breaks the key to the lock of his Airbnb. She goes to a garden party where she meets Lychee’s niece, Ariana (Stephanie Cayo), who sings, dances, paints and enjoys a no-strings-attached lifestyle. Since Ariana and Salvador are the most attractive people on screen, of course they sleep together that night, and then coyly exchange barbs for most of the rest of the movie. look, she’s some kind of hippie who thinks that building a monster hotel right in the middle of this beautiful city is a horrible idea. and she’s a hip guy who can only think of the tourism dollars the hotel would bring to the area. Will she turn him into a transient hippie? Will she make her into the kind of person who (gasps) has a schedule? No spoilers, folks.
What movies will it remind you of?: This movie is certainly a different take on Peruvian nature than Werner Herzog’s portrayal of jungle smut in Fitzcarraldo. no, without saying goodbye, the birds don’t cry out in pain; they are probably mating. but I digress: you’ll see elements of under the Tuscan sun and before sunrise in this travelogue rom-dram.
Performance Worth Watching: Cayo is magnetic as an unapologetic bohemian whose joie de vivre is cut short by the melancholy of her tragic past. she finds nuance in her character and, more importantly, transcends the clichés.
memorable dialogue: ariana: “you like to make money. I like to make time for myself. That’s why I’m rich.”
sex and skin: some very brief male sidebutt and female sideboob.
our opinion: thanks to the deity of your choice, the peruvian tourism board seems to have directed this film, because its biggest draw is peru itself. the mountains, the valleys, the beautiful rugged terrain, the clouds kissing the peaks, the bubbling streams, the peaceful wooded expanses. and cuzco teems with charm: delicious-looking food, lively people, rich cultural textures. book your vacation now and imagine what a hotel full of $400/night rooms would look like among the stone churches and other carefully preserved historic architectural delights. Right. it would look like shit.
so maybe salvador has something to learn here and ariana can teach him. yawn? Yeah, maybe, but Cayo and Iglesias muster just enough of a spark to keep their prickly and affectionate friendship from becoming a full-blown cliché. you know, two people from two different worlds and the two will never meet, and all that. they dump, they hate each other, she grudgingly agrees to take him on a five-day backpacking trip through the mountains, teaches him how to meditate, etc, and they take the scenic route no matter what they do, so we can enjoy lovingly photographed postcard landscapes and, in the scene where they visit the hot springs, of their lovingly photographed bodies in their underwear.
Not Saying Goodbye doesn’t break new ground at all, but the polished characters, especially Ariana, make sure this is more than just a fluffy romantic travelogue. her light comedy never gets too broad or grating; romance doesn’t turn into a mindless mashfest; the drama emphatically avoids being a soap opera. finds a happy middle ground and stays tonally consistent: a story of two people learning from each other. Cayo and Iglesias resist the script’s cornball tropes and manage to make us feel invested in their relationship. this is a good movie, and for once, i don’t mean that dismissively.
our call: pass it on. give it a try without saying goodbye, and you may find yourself delighted.
john serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in grand rapids, michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.