Clockwise from top left: El baile de la Victoria (Fernando Trueba, 2010), La mitad de Óscar (Manuel Martín Cuenca, 2011), Pagafantas (Borja Cobeaga, 2009), Primos (Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, 2011).
Of Trueba’s two most recent films, I prefer Chico & Rita, but the presence of Ricardo Darín (as always) makes El baile de la Victoria worth seeing. La mitad de Óscar is an existential family drama. There is little dialogue but the absence of words (and long silences) create a tense and fraught atmosphere between siblings Rodrigo Sáenz de Heredia and Verónica Echegui (a face to watch –her star is definitely on the rise and she is one of my favourite young actresses) –something has happened in the past that they are carefully tip-toeing around. We have to read between the lines until the final meeting between the two (which is played out in silhouette in front of a window overlooking the sea as the sun rises –we can’t see their facial expressions but everything that they don’t say is clearly telegraphed via their body language). Pagafantas is a kind of anthropological take on the dating game and its attendant rejections –and very funny with it (I was still chuckling over bits the next day). Primos is Daniel Sánchez Arévalo’s third film, reuniting him with the group of actors who are becoming his repertory company (Quim Gutiérrez, Raul Arévalo, and Antonio de la Torre), and is a comedy with a lot of heart. There are several standout sequences (notably Quim Gutiérrez’s opening monologue, which I imagine will now become a set text for auditioning actors, and let’s just say that the next time I hear the Backstreet Boys I’m liable to get an attack of the giggles) but I think that he’s an outstanding writer as a whole –he is one of the few writer-directors (Almodóvar springs to mind as another) who can switch between comedy and tragedy with ease and without unbalancing the film (the opening monologue is again a good example because it is funny and sad at the same time), and he also seems to have a genuine affection for the characters he creates.