In 1944, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a bookish 12-year-old arrives with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) at an isolated farmhouse in northern Spain. Here, amidst the dark woods and quietly subservient peasants, her new stepfather Vidal (Sergi López), an army captain, has set up base to harass leftover anti-Fascist rebels from the Civil War. The carefully sadistic Vidal has no squeamishness about the humanity of his anti-insurgent campaign, coolly ordering that all food and medical supplies for the nearby villagers be locked up in the farmhouse and only doled out under guard -- an attempt to starve out the rebels hiding up in the mountains. While the adults (including the excellent Maribel Verdú from Y Tu Mamá También as a woman with rebel ties) are fully enmeshed in their pungent dramas, Ofelia has her own problems of a different sort.
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The problems begin with the casting, with actor Jacques Weber taking the starring role. (Weber, a long-time French actor, also wrote the script and directed -- so maybe it's not so much a casting problem as it is an ego problem.) Weber is about as far from Don Juan as I can imagine, and he comes across as an overgrown, geriatric, hairy monster of sorts. Why would a beauty like Emmanuelle Béart be distraught when Juan packs up and leaves town for greener pastures? Hell if I know.
Continue reading: Don Juan Review
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