So a car breaks down in a small town and our hero heads out to get it fixed. Not much money, and generally depressed what follows is a low key exploration of small town life from the losers end. Un-cooperative garage owners, trouble with dogs all combined with a naturalistic shooting style creates a small gem of a picture. What am I talking about? Wendy And Lucy from earlier this year. AND Lake Tahoe.

There are, of course, a lot of differences between Wendy & Lucy and Lake Tahoe, the latter being Mexican for one thing. The lead is male in Lake Tahoe, and the dog isn’t his, just turns up later. But there is a similar small film mentality, neither film are about much more than the unravelling of an individual down on their luck. In Wendy & Lucy it is Wendy being down to her last pennies and destitute looking for a way out. In Lake Tahoe, we eventually discover (it is a very quiet and still film which rations its information) its the death of the leads father. He is trying to feel something. In many ways this is the thing that lets Lake Tahoe down a touch. For the first half of the film we do not know anything about him except that he crashes his car. We never find out where he was going (the suggestion is he may have crashed the car on purpose to get some sort of emotional reaction) but the film does tell us about his Dad’s death, introduces his family. It goes from an emotionally inert film to an emotionally charged film, occasionally in clunky spurts. And ends with a big beam of hope.

Wendy & Lucy was almost the opposite. A quiet, slowly burning fuse of a film sufficed with low key, but palpable tension. Lake Tahoe thrives on the opposite of tension. It is almost completely filmed in medium to long shot, with a fixed camera. It has often completely wordless scenes and sections. It breaks the cardinal rule of characters leaving one side of the frame and re-entering the next frame walking in the opposite direction. Its cuts are eight seconds of black screen (I timed it). It is short beautifully, in a pretty ugly place. It is an arthouse film with a soft centre. Wendy & Lucy was again almost the opposite, rough camerawork bring out the grubby desperation. Lots of small emotion and action from the lead. But, and this is the key point, both are terrific little films. I complained last week that Sunshine Cleaning was a film that didn’t really have enough of a storyline to drive the film forward. It has more story than Wendy And Lucy and Lake Tahoe put together (especially when you put them together you notice their similarities). But both Lake Tahoe, and Wendy And Lucy have an absolute commitment to their lead characters story, and the way it is being told. Lake Tahoe has moments of brilliant absurdist comedy (the dog eating the cereal scene is oddly hilarious). It may be a bit too soft, something the director Fernando Eimbcke also did in his other mini-masterpiece (with which it also shares its star), but he succeeds in the job he has given himself to do. And displays small town Mexico in the process. Lake Tahoe is Wendy & Lucy’s Mexican cousin, but they are both worth seeing.

You probably wouldn’t want a double bill though.