Friday, September 30, 2016

Foreign movie Friday: Perdiendo El Norte

This is another example of a movie I wanted to like the moment I spotted it, the other being the baffling French The Bridesmaid two weeks ago. Here, there were two main reasons. One was that Spain was the country of origin, and two, it stars my beloved Ivan and Julia from the t.v. show El Internado. Sadly, neither of these reasons gave the film enough support for me to be a fan.

Ivan (who in real life is known as Yon Gonzalez) plays one Hugo: a young MBA who finds, upon graduating, that present-day Spain is littered with similar youth who have crashed and burned in their attempt to start a career. Rather than languish in their parents' homes, he and his brainy friend Braulio, a molecular biologist with similarly dim prospects, decide to embark on a quest for monetary redemption to Germany: better to have some money with no career, as opposed to no money and no career.

'Spaniards in Germany' could have been a rich source of material for sensitive story-telling, even if humor was the main track the makers were after. The themes, in fact, are many: young dreams, a sense of displacement, the fear of failure, Germany's own attitudes to migrant workers, national identities, and so on. But none of that appears. Hugo quickly decides to flat-out lie to his parents and fiancee about his having a promising job. (He's actually a waiter at a cafe owned by a Turkish chap who goes around mangling both the Spanish language and the German.)Meanwhile, all around him all characters indulge so heavily in slapstick that I was surprised no-one slipped on a banana peel. 

These other characters are mainly the roommates, the sibling pair of Rafa and Carla, the latter being Blanca Suarez who plays Julia in my t.v. show. Now, I know what she and Hugo (Yon Gonzalez) are capable of as actors because of their luminous performances in that show. The chemistry between them and their individual characters' nuances are sensitive and memorable. Here, they seem straitjacketed by the script's insistence on too-easy gags and reliance on stereotypes. Despite doing their best, the two rather fetching actors cannot lift their surroundings out of this dimness.

Even a theme like Alzheimer's which a neighbor, Andres, suffers from, came across as short-changed here, tending towards the facile. Also short-changed were the German characters. There were none, they just appeared as indistinct fillers who vigorously indulged in stereotypical "German" behavior.

In the end it's deception to the rescue again, this time twisted around: Hugo leaves his fiancee at the altar in order to rekindle his flame with Carla, who had before inexplicably been involved with a married man herself. The climax includes a marathon in Berlin and a baby being delivered in a car: sigh.

I was a persistent viewer and did keep at it until the bitter end, and the movie admittedly became slightly better as it progressed. But I was left with a sense of lost potential here, in fact I'm sure most viewers would be. Audiences are now exposed to such fine examples of film-making from the world over, and I was hoping Espana would stand up to the task. Still, there is fine talent aplenty. I'm sure the next Spanish movie I pick will be muy muy bueno.

Director: Nacho Velilla
Overall rating: 4/10

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