From Spain, this drama grapples with some enormous issues without getting too heavy about them. It's emotionally wrenching without ever feeling sentimental, because inventive filmmaker Julio Medem (Sex & Lucia) keeps the tone funny and full of life. He also gets sparkling performances from Penelope Cruz and Luis Tosar, who keep the movie bright and hopeful even as the characters face mortality and death.
Cruz plays Magda, a feisty woman who turns all of her energy toward her lively teen son Dani (Teo Planell) after ditching her womanising husband Raul (Alex Brendemuhl). Dani is a star player on his school football team, attracting the attention of top scout Arturo (Tosar), whose life is shaken to the core when his daughter is killed in a car crash that leaves his wife in a coma. Secretly, Magda has been dealing with issues of her own, going through treatment for advanced breast cancer with her attentive doctor Julian (Asier Etxeandia). When things get more serious, she sends Dani away to stay with his aunt (Monica Sagrera). And while he's away, she and Arturo help each other through their darkest moments.
The film is a rollercoaster of emotions, from soaring happiness to deep despair, and Medem's approach is so honest that this never feels jarring. It's a look at the resilience of the human spirit, which can remain optimistic even when things get tough. Using dry humour and truthful emotions, he explores the importance of choosing joy, seamlessly mixing comedy and tragedy while refusing to let this become a traditional weepy drama. Within this open-handed approach, Cruz shines as a radiant woman who faces life head-on. Her interaction with each of the other characters is complex and engaging, especially in the surprising journey Magda takes with Arturo. Tosar is excellent, as always, with equally layered side roles beautifully played by Planell and Exteandia.
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Even though the central character is somewhat undefined, this film is a thorough creep-out, playing on our vulnerabilities while making the villain the most sympathetic person on-screen. Balaguero is one of the directors behind the [Rec] series, and knows how to unsettle his audience with atmospheric, skin-crawling sequences that are made especially visceral due to the realistic acting.
An impressive presence in the prison thriller Cell 211, the Bolivian political drama Even the Rain and as a drug kingpin in the Miami Vice movie, Spanish actor Tosar stars as Cesar, the likeable doorman at a creaky Madrid apartment block. But he secretly despises the residents, and is quietly destroying their lives, tormenting an elderly woman (Martinez) and her two beloved dogs, brutally threatening a young girl (Almeida Molina), and casting suspicion on mother-and-son cleaners (Fernandez and Morilla). But his biggest plan is for Clara (Etura), the sexy young woman in flat 5B. And while her boyfriend (San Juan) is away on business, he lurks in the shadows of her apartment plotting something unspeakable.
Director Balaguero keeps the film on low boil, refusing to explain everything in the plot while quietly twisting the moody tone. Every scene is a bundle of insinuation that suggests something truly nasty, and it's refreshing that Tosar never tries to make us understand what Cesar is up to: we see why everyone likes him, and also why they should be terrified of him. We only ever get a vague idea of his overall plan, but the things he does along the way are sinister enough to keep us nervous. As are hints that he may have done this before.
Continue reading: Sleep Tight [Mientras Duermes] Review
In the 1970's Howard Marks was one of the biggest weed smugglers in the world but the Welshman from the small town of Kenfig never indented to become such a major player in the industry. In the beginning Marks started out as a relatively minor drug dealer, supplying small amounts of dope but as his connections began to grow more opportunities became available.
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The Limits of Control, the 11th feature by the New York-born auteur Jim Jarmusch, is another work that is inarguably stamped by its director's idiosyncrasies and, like Volver, there have been several critics who have questioned if its artistic success is not so much a result of it being a Jarmusch film rather than simply a good film. It emits a dark-shade cool, as befits any Jarmusch joint, and it features several of the director's usual performers, including the Ivorian-born actor Isaach De Bankolé in the lead.
Continue reading: The Limits Of Control Review
From Spain, this drama grapples with some enormous issues without getting too heavy about them....
Even though the central character is somewhat undefined, this film is a thorough creep-out, playing...