The Spanish Film Festival returns to Perth on April 21! Here’s just a few of the films on offer. Find out what to see and what to avoid!
Las Ovejas No Pierden El Tren
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Sidetracked follows a trio of middle-aged couples as they navigate relationship struggles and strife. Luisa (Inma Cuesta) and Alberto (Raúl Arévalo) have moved to the country to have their second child in an idyllic spot, but their rambunctious sex life is paying the price. Alberto’s brother Juan (Alberto San Juan) is struggling to keep pace with his new girlfriend Natalia (Irene Escolar), a woman 20 years his junior; meanwhile, Luisa’s sister Sara (Candela Peña) is clinging to the hope that her new beau Paco (Jorge Bosch) walks her down the aisle, even though he’s not so sold on the idea.
Álvaro Fernández Armero’s latest film doesn’t exactly break new ground for its genre, but the talented and charismatic ensemble go some way to expanding the otherwise thin plot. Arevalo’s struggling writer Alberto enjoys the most compelling character arc as his directionless career and dwindling love life cause him to seek new challenges amongst the film’s gorgeous rural backdrop. The oddball chemistry he shares with Luisa affords the film some of its more compelling dramatic scenes.
On the other hand, Sara and Paco’s one-note subplot is missing some key emotional beats; the former simply comes across as a slightly unhinged bridezilla who doesn’t know when to quit. ArImero (who also serves as screenwriter) stages the comedy around familiar social situations and awkward conflicts, but an undercurrent of humour surrounding Spain’s recent economic slump as well as modern dating traps keeps the film feeling fresh and relevant.
Much like love itself, Sidetracked is sometimes awkward, ugly and uncomfortable, but you get out what you put in, and if you arrive wanting something open, honest and often entertaining, this film is for you.
⭐ ⭐ ½
Gonzalo Bendala’s Innocent Killers is in the tradition of crime films with tunnel vision. It is so focused on getting its story right that it doesn’t do much of anything else, which, if we’re talking about film as an art form, should include the bare necessities like character development, engaging dialogue and general coherence. This is a well-crafted movie for someone with ADHD needing a quick fix.
Maxi Iglesias plays Francisco Garralda, a college student who’s in too deep. His apartment (that he shares with his seemingly senile father) is about to be foreclosed on, and he owes a lot of money to Julián (Vicente Romero), an auto-mechanic gangster who’s more auto-mechanic than gangster.
Francisco has flunked his final psychology exam again. He can’t have that. He tries to bribe his worrisome professor Espinosa (Miguel Ángel Solá) to doctor his grade. Espinosa agrees on one condition – oh, but I wouldn’t dream of telling you what he has planned. If you’ve seen Billy Wilder’s splendid Double Indemnity (1944), you might be in on Espinosa’s secret, after shifting the focus from murder to redemption, though you might not care enough to do so.
I know I didn’t care at all. Who would’ve thought that something as simple as Innocent Killers’ plot could take as long as 95 minutes to unfold? And it unfolds all right, in a manner most unpleasant. It convolutes in such a way as to incite puzzlement, to the point where I had no idea what was happening to poor old Espinosa, and why Julian was in the picture at all. This is a strange film indeed, and the cloying, almost insulting ending doesn’t do it any favours.
Nothing In Return
A Cambio De Nada
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Director Daniel Guzmán’s Nothing In Return is a snapshot of the life of Dario (Miguel Herrán), an almost 16-year-old boy whose life is unravelling at the hands of his parents’ very messy divorce. Heavily neglected and facing trouble with the law and expulsion from school, Dario runs away to be taken in and put to work by shady mechanic Caralimpia (Felipe García Vélez). Now fending for himself, Dario and his best friend Luismi (Antonio Bachiller) refuse to let their difficult situation ruin their summer; though their increasing temptation to solve all their problems by stealing could lead to some serious consequences and life lessons…
Films like The Squid and the Whale and A Separation show us a hard-hitting deconstruction of a divorce in process; Nothing In Return uses it only as the kick-off, instead seguing into the impact of the divorce on the sole child of the marriage and turning it into a twisted coming-of-age tale. It manages to be very entertaining in the process, effectively blending comedic banter and brash endeavours with high-stakes drama and. Herrán and Bachiller share an impressive chemistry as the pair tackle regular teenage matters – sex, girls and drinking; and the irregular – carrying out heists and high speed police chases. There are themes of uniting different generations through loneliness, though it comes up a little short; if only Dario’s parents were fleshed out a little more, this would be a rich and completely fulfilling experience.
Images courtesy of Spanish Film Festival 2016 and Palace Films