Film Review: Un Amor

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews the Spanish drama film Un Amor, screening as part of the HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2024.

Prolific co-writer/director Isabel Coixet’s latest is another of her dark and slightly dangerous character/relationship dramas, although this one is populated with unfamiliar faces rather than the name players from her It Snows In Benidorm, Learning To Drive, Elegy, and My Life Without Me.

Shot in rundown rural locales in La Rioja, this introduces us to Nat (Laia Costa in her second film for Coixet), a translator who wants to live far away from the city for reasons that prove fairly clear right from the start. She’s moved into a dilapidated house where the hostile and insulting landlord Casero (Luis Bermejo) insists that it’s her responsibility to repair the many problems with the place.

He also gives her an obviously abused dog which she names ‘Surly’ (according to the subtitles), and she sets about trying to clean the property up and get to know the community. The neighbours seem nice, and there are sweet scenes where she socialises with aspiring artist Piter (Hugo Silva), family-man Carlos (Francesco Carril) and others, although gruff Andreas a.k.a. ‘The German’ (Hovik Keuchkerian) isn’t exactly friendly, even though he brings her boxes of free veggies.

Eventually Andreas turns up at her door proclaiming that he’s not interested in the nonsense of seduction, and that he’ll gladly fix the roof in exchange for, well, sex. She resists the idea but, soon, the pair are in bed, and she’s so distanced that she imagines separating from her body and watching from a nearby chair.

Andreas wants to keep things purely functional and emotion-free, but the lonely Nat works hard to be more romantic and tender with him, even as their lovemaking grows rougher. And Coixet can’t help but contrast the physical differences between the two players: Costa is diminutive and looks like a tormented Spanish Audrey Tautou, while the hairy, scary Keuchkerian is much taller and surely almost twice her weight, occasionally giving him an almost Shrek-like aspect.

Too long at 129 minutes, this is still worth persevering with, although certain audiences could be uneasy with the sex scenes, which don’t feature lovely lighting and orchestral soundtracking but, instead, have a hungry, needy, deliberately unflattering edge.

But, then, these are meant to be actual real people, so what did you expect?

Un Amor is screening as part of the HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2024


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