THERE ARE SOME FAMILY GATHERINGS THAT require a program to keep the cast of characters clear in one’s mind. I will avoid talking about my own since it would be easy for the family members to identify themselves in my stories. There have been many occasions where I have been included in another family’s event. From somber to joyful I have discovered each family has their own “baggage” whether they acknowledge it or not. Also, it has reaffirmed in me the belief that there is no such thing as a “normal” family. I was included in a friend’s family dinner where two sisters did not speak to each other because they had an argument months (yes, that is right months) ago. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to carry on a conversation where you have to address each person separately on the same topic? They never made eye contact nor referred to the other in any way; it was uncomfortable for me and yet the parents sat at the dining room table as if nothing in the world was wrong. The wildest part of it was when food was being passed around the table. Neither sister would hand the other any food going around; instead, would put it on the table to make the other sibling stand up and reach for it. Crazy, isn’t it? AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, I have been at family functions where nothing was held back; family members were sharing the most intimate details about their personal lives. In other words, WTMI (way too much information). There would be no need for me to hear what type of physical characteristics a relative is looking for in a mate. Or how about sitting around the living room as 3 relatives get into a heated argument, calling each other names and swearing at the top of their lungs. I remember looking around to get a cue on how to react, but the other relatives were just sitting there sipping their cups of coffee and nibbling on their snacks as if nothing was taking place. At one point I thought I was entering a boxing match as the yelling relatives were getting up into each other’s faces. Now I come from a point of view where everyone has the right to express their feelings; but not during a heated argument. It should be a calm setting with no fear of retaliation. If you are curious to see an example of a family with issues, then feel free to observe what takes place with the family in this dramatic crime mystery. RETURNING TO HER SMALL HOME TOWN for her sister’s wedding was to be a happy occasion for Laura, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Broken Embraces). But when a tragic event took place, the cracks beneath the family’s surface spread further apart. This film festival winning movie also starred Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) as Paco, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) as Alejandro, Edward Fernandez (Biutiful, The Man with Thousand Faces) as Fernando and Barbara Lennie (Magical Girl, El Nino) as Bea. The acting in this film was excellent; whether it was joyful or heart wrenching, I was feeling the characters’ emotional states. With the acting so strong, this picture needed a tightly written script to keep the actors aloft. At times I felt some scenes went flat; luckily, there were not many of them. The other criticism I have has to do with the ending. It seemed to tidy as if it wanted to wrap up the story quickly. Otherwise, this picture still kept my interest as I wondered what other things this family had hidden below the surface. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars
It is getting harder and harder not to turn into a cynic these days. Before the internet (boy, don’t I sound older than dirt) it was easier to believe the things people were saying were true. Not that there weren’t criminal elements throughout society; let us say there were less tools of the trade for a criminal to use to scam someone. Though I believe everyone is born with good and bad tendencies, I lean more towards the thought people are telling me the truth. My reasoning is to look at what they are saying and wonder what gain would come from them lying to me. As you can imagine I have been burned in the past, gratefully at very little loss. There have been people I know who were taken by scam artists and do you know what one of the saddest remarks has been for them to agree with the transaction? “They had a nice face” or “They were so polite” are excuses I have heard. Personally I have always had issues about judgements being made based on a person’s appearance. Whether a person is perceived to be pretty or not should have no bearing on a person’s character. Besides, what is the definition of pretty or handsome? What one person finds beautiful another person may find ugly. So now with the internet as a major part of our lives, criminally minded individuals can be whatever they want to be or what the victim wants them to be. How scary is that? For everyone, but especially those of you who were born after the internet, take a look at how the characters worked their trade in this crime thriller. JUAN, played by Gaston Pauls (Nuts for Love, Iluminados por el Fuego), had that innocent looking face that would fit perfectly into Marcos’, played by Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Son of the Bride), scheme to sell counterfeit stamps. This film festival winning drama was an absolute twisted, wild ride written and directed by Fabian Bielinsky (The Aura, Sleepwalker). Though these were con artists one could not help but follow them throughout this film with its multiple stories. I thought the acting was terrific as the actors were able to be totally serious yet deliver some sly and wicked humor. Including Leticia Bredice (Burnt Money, The One-TV) as Valerie, I enjoyed the way the story and everyone in it were like jigsaw puzzle pieces that were attempting to fit into spots before finding their correct places. At one point I felt scenes were bordering on being unrealistic but it became a passing thought because I was getting deeper into following the story. On one level one could be horrified about witnessing a crime taking place; but on the other hand, this movie was meant to entertain and it did. Just reading the synopsis about this picture doesn’t convey how fun it was to watch this DVD. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
Though it is a cliche, I firmly believe the eyes are the windows to the soul. There have been people where I looked into their eyes and only saw a dark, thick aspic. Then I have gazed into other people’s eyes and saw my peripheral vision expand; as I stared into veils of color stretching for miles, sharing a common pulse. I have always been leery of anyone who does not make direct eye contact with me. In this outstanding thriller, the eyes were essential in the telling of this dramatic story. Benjamin Esposito, played by Ricardo Darin (Nine Queens, Son of the Bride) was a retired federal agent for the justice department in Argentina. Hoping to write a novel based on one of his former closed murder cases, Benjamin returned to his old office to meet with department chief Irene Menendez Hastings, played by Soledad Villamil (Red Bear, Life According to Muriel). Using flashbacks, we observed the determination of Benjamin and his partner as they tried to find the killer of Liliana Coloto. But when it came to things closer to his life, Benjamin was incapable of acting upon them. Would revisiting the case give him the courage to express what had been laying inside of him for all these years? This movie captured me from the start, with its exciting story and wonderful acting by the entire cast. Each scene was perfectly placed and filled with a rich layering of emotions. The film, rightly so, won the Oscar for best foreign movie. What really moved me about this film was the way the actors used their eyes to convey their feelings and move the story forward. A couple of scenes with blood and violence. Spanish with English subtitles.
4 stars — DVD