INTIMATE STORIES — *** — Javier Lombardo, Antonio Benedicti, Javiera Bravo; in Spanish, with English subtitles; not rated, probable R (profanity, vulgarity, brief gore, brief partial nudity).

"Intimate Stories" may remind a few audience members of "The Straight Story," director David Lynch's wonderfully low-key 1999 character drama, the true story of a 73-year-old man riding a lawn mower 300 miles to see his estranged brother.

This Argentine comedy-drama was not based on a true story but it has some of the same charm and a similar premise — though rather than following one particularly sympathetic character on a road trip, it follows three.

The film also has some unfortunate R-rated tendencies, such as the inclusion of a few unnecessary curse words. That doesn't completely ruin the movie, though.

"Intimate Stories" looks at three very different residents of the tiny Fitz Roy community. Elderly shop owner Don Justo Benedictis (Antonio Benedicti) has been unable to get a driver's license because of his poor eye sight. So he's resorted to hitchhiking and is using whatever means he can to get to San Julian, which is where he believes his dog has run away.

One of the drivers who picks him up is Roberto (Argentine television actor Javier Lombardo), a middle-age salesman who is also on his way to San Julian. Roberto says he's going there for business but it's really to woo a single mother he met on his travels. Meanwhile, young mother Maria Flores (Javiera Bravo) has taken the bus to get to San Julian. She's supposed to participate on a television game show and has left her child in the care of other Fitz Roy residents.

Director Carlos Sorin and screenwriter Pablo Solarz mix the dramatic and comic elements equally. And at times the comedy can get pretty goofy. Among the more amusing bits are Roberto's struggles to get a birthday cake correctly decorated.

However, it's the surprising but effective payoff to Don Justo's journey that has the most emotional pull, which is due in no small part to newcomer Benedicti's performance.

"Intimate Stories" is not rated but would probably receive an R for scattered use of strong profanity and a few crude slang terms, some brief gore, and some brief partial female nudity (skimpy Carnival outfits seen on a television). Running time: 88 minutes.


E-mail: [email protected]