[Cross-posted from Kamera, and probably the only really rude review I ever wrote. From 2001.]
Miguel Albaladejo’s fourth film, winner of the Best Film prize at the LA Latino Film Festival, is another light romantic comedy, competently acted, competently scripted, competently shot. Spun round what is essentially a telenovela plot, with telenovela characters – the cardboard psychiatrist protagonist, Miguel, played by the Catalan Sergi Lopez (whose beige, shrinking performance could be in protest at being forced to spend months shooting in Madrid), the predictably sparky beautician, Jasmina, played with sub-Almodovar charm by Mariola Fuentes, and the tumour-surviving (what do you mean I’m spoiling the plot? It’s a telenovela… You weren’t expecting tumours?), mother-in-law (Maria Jose Alfonso) – Albaladejo intends us, I am sure, to draw some Significance from the Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary People, but no Hegelian Aufhebung out of the numerous colliding banalities is forthcoming. If, however, you are looking for a mildly diverting, flossy, typical bit of Iberiana, then this could be a good bet.
Pitched, to be honest, midway between a film and a TV film, Ten Days Without Love (a telenovela title if ever there was one) opens true to its Spanish title El Cielo Abierto – The Open Sky – with a torrential downpour, people putting up umbrellas, pulling down blinds, shutters and screens. Miguel is on the phone to his wife, Sara, who left him 3 days previously for another man. She has rung from Tokyo to ask a favour – her mother is flying down to Madrid for a check-up, and is expecting to stay at their flat. Could he put her up for the night? At that moment, the mother-in-law, Elvira, arrives and Miguel is extremely accommodating, but she takes Sara’s side against Miguel. It emerges that Sara has run off with Miguel’s… wait for it… father (su padre! Joder, tio!), a famous painter and womaniser, which, obviously, changes everything.
The same day, a patient of Miguel’s steals his wallet (ummm, it never rains but it pours), and when Miguel goes to track it down, he meets the patient’s down-to-earth beautician sister, Jasmina – she evidently likes him, he is slow to respond, but eventually (you’d never guess it if I didn’t tell you) their love, or at least hers, (it all gets a little bit Jersey Girl – she’s ultra-enthusiastic, and why shouldn’t she be? She dumped her last boyfriend for knocking off ATMs… Miguel’s obviously on the rebound, looking for a bit of validation), blossoms, and is confirmed at the end when Sara returns from Tokyo, and is left standing in the rain. Maybe I’m clutching at straws, but at the last, judging from his face, Miguel seems just to be going with the flow, and you do at least wonder quite how long this inevitably unlikely liaison will last, whereas Jasmina looks like she’s hit the jackpot.
Fleeting charm is provided by scenes of Miguel’s patients (the usual collection of “the voices, the voices” and surly kids), and of Jasmina’s domestic life – rough kids (hearts of gold, of course, made to grow up too quickly, motherless children, tragedy, etc.), and semi-senile grandparents (who, desde luego, talk sense when it’s most needed). Damn it, she even strikes up a rapport with some gypsies. Albaladejo manages to put together what is a more or less solid, extremely conventional, clumsily feelgood film, but with little depth of characterisation, motivation or structure. Perhaps your money would be better spent on a couple of steaming plates of albondigas.
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