Despite a very wobbly screenplay, this film's decent cast and gorgeous setting make it worth a look. It may be a somewhat awkward mix of comical slapstick, political ideas and darker drama, but the characters hold our interest, and the story is tangled enough to keep us wondering how it will work itself out.
It starts in Glasgow, where the political activist Rosa (Birthistle) decides to take her father's ashes to Cuba, where he once worked as an activist himself and met his wife, who later died there. Rosa's fashion-obsessed sister Allie (Wakefield) decides to come along, as well as Rosa's sardonic pal Conway (Dick). As they travel across the Cuban countryside they have a series of misadventures and meet two local men (Acosta and Simpson) who are a little too sexy and helpful to be trusted. And Rosa is reluctant to either fall in love or rely on any man.
Rosa's prickly personality is a big problem for a film that asks us to take a trip with her. She's so abrasive that she's not easy to like, and Birthistle struggles to make her sympathetic. Thankfully, she's an engaging actor who brings out Rosa's shock at having her idealism challenged by reality. And she has terrific chemistry with Acosta and Simpson, who are superb even as they simplistically represent certain aspects of Cuban society. Wakefield's story arc is less involving, but she's a lot of fun to watch, and Dick walks off with the film in an underwritten comic-relief role.
Director Roberts nicely catches the contrast between Scotland and Cuba, which looks like a picture-postcard collection of gorgeous landscapes and quaint villages, plus lots of lively Latino music. On the other hand, Houston's script never quite makes sense, failing to connect the dots of the plot. This leaves us unable to believe much of what happens, especially when the final act takes a few twists and turns involving half-hearted action and a revelation that doesn't add up. But at least we can involve ourselves in Rosa's journey of self-discovery. And Cuba really does look gorgeous.
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th November 2013
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 5.2 / 10
Director: John Roberts
Producer: Eirene Houston
Screenwriter: Jonathan Rae
Starring: Eva Birthistle as Rosa, Charity Wakefield as Ailie, Carlos Acosta as Tomas, Bryan Dick as Conway, Christopher Simpson as Ernesto, Manuel de Blas as Ignatio Palma, Luis Alberto García as Ernesto's Cousin - Camilo, Aurora Basnuevo as Matilde, Phyllis Logan as Brenda, Olivia Poulet as Lucy
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