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Accent of this romantic comedy is on cynicism

''Dot the I" is a deplorable piece of cynicism whose only point of interest is Gael Garcia Bernal's accent. I don't think I've heard anything like it. Bernal is a Mexican playing Kit, a half-British, half-Brazilian actor living in London, and when he speaks, you feel like the movie has finally given you something, however inconsequential, worth your attention.

Otherwise, Matthew Parkhill's first feature thinks it's smarter and hipper than it is. The movie begins as a romantic comedy, turns into romantic thriller, then collapses into a sick and illogical self-reflexive noir. If this sounds even vaguely exciting, I promise it's not.

During her bachelorette dinner, Carmen (Natalia Verbeke) shares a kiss with Kit that's so good it freaks her out. He's a perky, persistent stranger who seems to know her intimately. He also knows where she works and insists on filming all their encounters with a hand-held camera. This kid scares her a little. Men have abused her before. That's why she left Madrid. And one of her former assailants might be out on the streets stalking her right now.

Carmen's ineffectual English fiance, Barnaby (James D'Arcy), knows about her traumatic past yet seems OK with letting her spend most of the film walking down dark, damp streets. Mystery abounds. How can Barnaby permit this? How does Kit always know where to find Carmen? How does he know her favorite book is ''Chronicle of a Death Foretold"? What's up with that video camera, and what about those cutaways to the point of view of another camcorder that's tracking her movements?

All will be revealed, and with a heavy disrespect for logic, common sense, and poor Carmen, too. The movie wants to be some kind of media indictment, but it's not sharp enough to say anything resonant, and it's not competently made enough to entertain. Cribbing the over-caffeinated flash of movie stylists like Guy Ritchie (''Snatch"), Parkhill doesn't seem to have lived outside his video store, which explains why Carmen is not a woman so much as what scuzzy movies think a woman is: an object for their misogyny.

In Spanish films like ''The Other Side of the Bed," Verbeke has always appeared bright and grounded. Here the movie refuses to let her be much more than a blubbering nitwit.

Through force of personality, Bernal escapes with his good name intact. With intelligent directors, his vibrancy and commitment make him an asset, but the movies are usually more interesting than he is. In ''Dot the I," Bernal isn't obligated to serve any higher purpose. There is none. He's just having fun, which is far more than any paying customer of this movie will say.

Wesley Morris can be reached at

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