(2019) Drama (Outsider) Itsaso Arana, Vito Sanz, Isabelle Stoffel, Joe Manjón, Maria Herrador, Luis Heras, Mikele Urroz, Naiara Carmona, Simon Pritchard, Violeta Rebollo, Sigfrid Monléon, Francesco Carril, David López, Julen Berasategui, Alonso Diaz, Lucia Perlado, Soleá Morente, Pablo Peña, Lorena Alvarez. Directed by Jonás Trueba
In Central and Southern Europe’s largest cities including Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Venice, it isn’t unusual for much of the population to desert the city during the month of August for cooler climates or at least places where beaches are plentiful. Keep in mind that air-conditioning is not as common in Europe as it is here.
\Eva (Arana) is a thirty-something who has, after years of following the flock out of town in August, decided to remain in Madrid for the month of August. It seems time for her to make a change; she’s an actress who is ready to try some other way of life. She is apartment-sitting for a friend closer to the city center, and takes part in the religious festivals (including that of the Blessed Virgin, hence the title) that take place in early August.
She is a bit of a tourist in her own city, hanging out in places where the tourists (there are always tourists) hang out. There she meets a Welsh ex-pat (Manjón) and his English cousin (Pritchard) at a bar she hangs out in with her upstairs neighbor (Herrador), a performance artist.
For the most part, Eva isn’t much of a talker so much as a listener, but occasionally she reaches out at unexpected moments. This movie is as languid as the heat of the dog days. It moves at a pace that American audiences may find unbearable and to be honest, nothing much of note happens. This is a slice of life in the truest sense of the word. Eva drifts through, looking to find herself but unsure what precisely she’s looking for. There’s a bit of a twist near the end of the film but it’s not so much an “a-ha” moment as it is a “wait…what?” moment.
Arana is the film’s saving grace; her presence is low-key but nevertheless compelling. You want to hang out with her, whether she’s floating about a local swimming hole, hanging out in a bar, dancing in the streets, or eating in one of Madrid’s many bistros. The conversation here isn’t life-changing so much as it is life-affirming. This is what people do every day when it’s too hot to think too hard.
Trueba is one of Spain’s most promising directors, if you listen to the Spanish press. If being a fly on the wall in someone’s life is exciting to you, this might well be the kind of movie that’s for you. However, if you watch movies to escape the ordinary, this is going to bore you silly. Me, I can go either way depending on my mood; I do love a lot of what this movie is about, although I will say that the twist doesn’t really fit in with the tone of the rest of the movie and that at just over two hours, the movie coud have used some trimming here and there. Still, if life is what you seek, here is where you’ll find it.
REASONS TO SEE: Arana has low-key but compelling presence.
REASONS TO AVOID: Languidly paced and a bit of a drag.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Leonard Cohen t-shirt that Eva lends Sofia is the same one Trueba used in his first film.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Virtual Cinema
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/2/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Mid-August Lunch
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
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