Archive for the ‘European Film Festival’ Category

Last Child in the Village

The Eight Mountains

Directors: Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Elisabetta Mazzullo, Filippo Timi  

Running Time: 2 hours and 27 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Language: Italian with English Subtitles

Festival: European Film Festival

Belgian directing duo Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch present the slightly long winded friendship film The Eight Mountains about two young boys who become friends in August 1984 and this film tracks their friendship as they grow into teenagers and eventually into adults.

Both boys are the only child of a family, Pietro Guasti and Bruno Guglielmina become firm friends as they spend the idyllic summers together in the Italian Alps. Pietro is a city boy from Turin with a strict father, Giovanni played by Filippo Timi while Bruno is a child of nature and literally the last child in the village, a remote place in the alps filled with beautiful mountains and stunning scenery but sparsely populated.

As the years go by, Pietro struggles to find his own identity as a man and has a fall out with his aging father although all the time attempting to be a writer and describe his experiences from mountain climbing to studying literature. Bruno just wants to remain in the same area and starts isolating emotionally as he attaches himself more to the natural environment.

Both men follow different dreams although as friends they unite to build a chalet in memory of Pietro’s father. This arduous task completed during the summer months cements their long-time friendship although soon love and self-exploration changes their dynamic. Bruno meets a lovely woman Lara played by Elisabetta Mazzullo and they have a child together, while he dreams of opening his own cheese making farm.

Pietro stretches his wings and travels to Nepal to climb the Himalayas and gain a perspective on his Italian childhood and the lost years that he can’t get back with his late father.

The Eight Mountains is a fascinating if slow moving story of the progression of a male friendship from boyhood until adulthood, all the highs and lows, the family tragedy and the complex relationships. Unfortunately with two directors, this film while interesting does suffer from a lack uniformity regarding cinematic vision.

With spectacular scenery and some insightful philosophical approaches to the fickle nature of human relationships, The Eight Mountains is a story of two men whose trajectories start the same but their destinies are vastly different.

Fortunately both Luca Marinelli (The Great Beauty) and Alessandro Borghi are excellent as the lifelong friends Pietro and Bruno. If audiences enjoy a slow burning tale of platonic friendship, then they will enjoy The Eight Mountains, an interesting story which needed to be edited properly and have a far superior soundtrack. This film’s soundtrack was completely incongruous with the narrative.

While the scenery is gorgeous, The Eight Mountains gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and the storyline needed more conflict to make this friendship narrative more exciting and humorous.

Dissection of a Marriage

Anatomy of a Fall

Director: Justine Triet

Cast: Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Samuel Theis, Milo Machado Graner, Antoine Reinartz, Jehnny Beth, Camille Rutherford

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Languages: English & French

Festival: European Film Festival

French director Justine Triet’s riveting courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall won the coveted Palm d’Or at the 2023 Festival de Cannes and is a complex dissection of a marriage after it has abruptly ended.

The scenario is set up more like a philosophical question which generates more inquiry than any form of closure.

A couple live in a remote chalet in the French Alps. They have a young son who is visually impaired. One fine day after the wife gives a brief interview to a literary student, the son goes for a walk with his guide dog and returns to discover his father dead on the snow, having fallen from the top floor of the attic window. Was the husband killed or did he commit suicide? If he was killed, there are only two suspects: the wife and the son.

Anatomy of a Fall is a skilfully directed family mystery, in which director Triet’s focus is exclusively on the portrayal of the relationship between mother and son and in particular the role of the mother and the wife, in this case Sandra Voyter superbly played by German actress Sandra Huller (I am Your Man) who actually deserves an Oscar nomination for this role.

Huller’s multi-layered performance in English and French is phenomenal as the less than conventional German mother who finds herself the chief suspect in her French husband’s murder as the criminal trial begins her entire life, her relationship with her husband and their son is dissected in a courtroom in Grenoble, France.

Justine Triet’s portrayal of the husband Samuel is clever and unique, he is almost entirely off-screen except for a key flashback scene in the middle of the film in which the court is played back an audio recording of a marital spate between Samuel and Sandra about six months before his fatal fall.

At the beginning of Anatomy of a Fall, audiences have to watch the opening scene extremely carefully. Unlike in American or even British films, Justine Triet refuses to guide the audience through this complex trial to a satisfactory conclusion, instead she plays with the viewers sympathies as they continually shift between Sandra and her son Daniel, while Sandra is flirting with her French lawyer, the eloquent and sympathetic Vincent Renzi played by Swann Arlaud.

Anatomy of a Fall is a psychological film about a marriage that has collapsed and a family racked with guilt, infidelity and tragedy. Triet also asks the audience to question perspective.

Is an event better to be seen from a male or female point of view? Philosophically speaking who was really responsible for the man falling to his death? Was it the wife or her son? What about motive?

Despite the second half being too long, Anatomy of a Fall is a fascinating film about gender relationships, possible murder and complex marriages.

If audiences enjoy a riveting contemporary courtroom drama, then watch Anatomy of a Fall, for the multi-dimensional performance by Sandra Huller and the intriguing direction of Justine Triet. Anatomy of a Fall gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is an intelligent courtroom drama, which will challenge viewers and offer a fresh almost unsettling cinematic perspective.

Cruelty & Splendour

The Bohemian (Il Boemo)

Director: Petr Vaclav

Cast: Vojtech Dyk, Barbara Ronchi, Elena Radonicich, Lana Vlady, Salvatore Langella, Cristiano Donati

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Languages: Czech, German & Italian with English subtitles

Festival: European Film Festival

Czech actor Vojtech Dyk plays the role of minor Baroque composer Josef Mysliveček, a Czech composer and precursor of the infamous Mozart in director Petr Vaclav’s lavish and entirely European film The Bohemian or Il Boemo in Italian. The Bohemian is set mainly in Italy at the decadent peak of the Baroque period in classical music in such illustrious centres of culture as Venice, Bologna and Naples.

Josef Mysliveček arrives in Italy to become a famous composer but unlike Mozart he does not rely on anyone royal patron but becomes a more contract composer for various emerging opera companies in Italy during the 1760’s and 1770’s.

Director Petr Vaclav cleverly captures with illumination the excess and drama of the Baroque Opera world in 18th century Italy when wealthy nobleman had composers in their power while the noblewomen and Opera divas were all trying to seduce the composer amidst temptations of candlelit orgies and outrageous theatre antics.

For Mysliveček was truly captivated by the excessively emotional and decadent Italians especially the King of Naples. It was mainly the Opera divas that had the composer working furiously to please them and those wealthy patrons that kept him afloat in Italy after he abandons his family back in Prague. For a hard working Czech composer like Mysliveček in the 18th century, Italy was seen as an illustrious and expensive country, complete with cruelty and dazzling splendour.

The divas in question are Caterina Gabrielli wonderfully played by Italian actress Barbara Ronchi and Anna Fracassati played by Lana Vlady who is utterly superb as an entirely temperamental opera singer that needs to be slapped before performing before the Royal entourage. There is a brilliant scene when the one diva throws herself out of one of the Opera boxes during the performance of an amazing concerto.

The Bohemian is a lavish film, utterly resplendent with beautiful costumes, complete with commedia del arte masks for the Venetian scenes and the operatic scenes are absolutely divine. While not as brilliant as the Oscar worthy film Amadeus, The Bohemian is as amusing and bizarre as director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Oscar winning film The Favourite.

Vojtech Dyk is excellent as the Bohemian composer whose life starts declining rapidly through promiscuity and gambling. Mysliveček watches helplessly as his most promising career as a classical composer slowly vanishes from recognition while the more talented and supremely famous Mozart rises from the ashes of classical Baroque music in a competitive and debauched European cultural world. Ironically like Mozart, Mysliveček also died destitute.

The Bohemian was the Czech Republic’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar for the 2023 Academy Awards but unfortunately did not make the cut.

If audiences enjoyed Amadeus or The Favourite then they will love The Bohemian which gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is especially suited for fans of Baroque Opera who will find this cinematic interpretation intriguing, shocking and dazzling.

Thrown to the Wolves

The Old Oak

Director: Ken Loach

Cast: Elba Mari, Dave Turner, Claire Rodgerson, Trevor Fox, Chris McGlade, Jordan Louis, Joe Armstrong, Debbie Honeywood, Neil Leiper

Running Time: 1 hour 53 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Language: English & Arabic

Festival: European Film Festival

With an authentic screenplay by Paul Laverty, The Old Oak is a brilliant social drama about two vastly different communities being forced to live together in Durham, Northern England in the new film by 87 year old British Neorealist film director Ken Loach who also brought the incredible films Land and Freedom and the Irish drama The Wind that Shakes the Barley starring Cillian Murphy.

After its well received premiere at the 2023 Festival de Cannes, The Old Oak has no film stars in it, but authentic people, both British and Syrian who are forced to live in close proximity with their only neutral space being The Old Oak, a traditional British pub run by TJ wonderfully played with compassion and sensitivity by Dave Turner.

When Yara, a budding photographer and Syrian refugee arrives in England with her family after escaping the cruelty and atrocities imposed on the Syrian population by the Assad regime, herself and fellow Syrians are treated with hostility by the local former mining community, working class people in Northern England who are at once ignorant but also slightly curious at these completely foreign people arriving and living in their once tight knit community.

Yara is wonderfully played by the beautiful Elba Mari who strikes up a friendship with the pub owner TJ who is desperately trying to hang onto his pub, while his regulars in perfect harmony denounce the arrival of the Syrians calling them names and bemoaning the fact that Westminster has decided to dump refugees in Durham and not in Chelsea or central London.

Ken Loach is known for making razor sharp social dramas dealing with current problems with the British working class and has always portrayed a more socialist viewpoint on the working class as they really are, often poverty stricken, weary of foreigners and salt of the earth people whose community bonds bind them together in mutual distrust of any outsiders.

Screenwriter Paul Laverty gets the pub banter down perfectly of the local regulars at The Old Oak especially conveying the significance of the traditional British pub as the centre of the community and an icon of British culture.

Yara keenly uses the lens of a beautiful camera, which her detained father gave her before they fled Syria to capture the significance of the Syrians arriving in Northern England in 2016.

Director Ken Loach, previous winner of the Palm d’Or for I, Daniel Blake and The Wind that Shakes the Barley is adept at providing a significant film The Old Oak about two different communities fighting to find a neutral space, a venue where they can eat together so that they can stay together.

Ironically, during his highly impressive film career, director Ken Loach has had a bigger following in Europe than in the UK, but his films are always worth watching as he awakens the viewer to social issues which often do not make entertaining film content: xenophobia, cruelty, impoverishment and bigotry.

As a fine example of British Neorealism, The Old Oak is an absorbing tale of two people that find common ground and in doing so draw their respective communities together despite the desperate situation both communities face.

Gritty and authentic, The Old Oak is a clever film, socially insightful and extremely well written and directed, it is worth seeing especially to glimpse a side of Britain which is not mainstream.

The Old Oak, one of Ken Loach’s more complex social dramas gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing.

The Duckling & The Lizard


Director: Lukas Dhont

Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Emilie Dequenne, Lea Drucker, Igor van Dressel, Kevin Janssens

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Language: Flemish with English Subtitles

Festival: European Film Festival 2023

Belgian director Lukas Dhont follows up his 2018 film Girl, with an emotionally complex film Close starring an excellent Eden Dambrine as a teenage schoolboy Leo whose childhood friendship with Remi played by Gustav de Waele goes from being extremely close to being exceptionally difficult as both boys enter high school in contemporary Belgium and experience different feelings.

Dhont whose film Close was nominated for the Best International Film at the 2023 Oscars representing Belgium packs his skilful and emotionally taut storyline into an uncomfortable gaze. Most of the film is shot in extreme close up particularly the opening scenes featuring Remi and Leo as they are childhood friends who spend all their waking hours’ together, playing imaginary games against the so-called enemies and spending all their time at Remi’s house with his mother Sophie, a nurse watching on happily.

In a radical shift in circumstances and as Leo and Remi start navigating the treacherous teenage years of high school, Leo yearns to fit into a bigger crowd at school and as a result of bullying knowingly distances himself from Remi, who doesn’t have the emotional capacity to understand why his best friend has started ghosting him.

Close is expertly shot with that casual European nonchalance which gradually draws the viewer into an absolutely poignant and gut-wrenching film. This top class drama, a razor sharp analysis of young human beings in transition in that tricky stage of puberty when they are attempting to deal with complex relationships and ever shifting feelings.

Leo is suddenly thrust into a morally uncomfortable situation one in which he questions his own version of who he wants to be while trying to make amends.

Co-written by Lukas Dhont, Close not only refers to close friendships or bullying but the rather messy dynamic of family relationships and how children are socialized differently, particularly boys who are brought up to be tough, competitive and resilient. Any sign of weakness is seen to be an opportunity for exploitation.

Close is an absolutely heart wrenching and thoroughly human story about the consequences of treating someone cruelly and the social effects of bullying. Eden Dambrine dominates the story in this riveting and psychologically scarring film about cruelty, unarticulated feelings and redemption.

Close gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing about complex issues that need to be discussed intelligently. A superb film.

Prisoner of Desire

Great Freedom

Director: Sebastian Meise

Cast: Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn

Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes

This film is in German with English Subtitles

Please note this film is sexuality explicit and contains images of drug use

Austrian director Sebastian Meise’s intensely explicit homosexual prison drama Great Freedom won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and is held together by two powerful performances by Franz Rogowski who plans renown homosexual Hans Hoffman and Georg Friedrich (Narcissus and Goldmund) who plays fellow prisoner and frequent drug user Viktor.

Hans is imprisoned under paragraph 175 for being homosexual when in post-war Germany homosexuality was criminalized. Even though Germany has been liberated by the Allies at the end of World War II, paragraph 175 still remains law and Hans tries to survive in prison by doing sewing and occasionally snatching brief sexual liaisons with younger gay men in prison, specifically played by Anton von Lucke as Leo Griese and Thomas Prenn as Oskar. However, the precocious Hans is for ever in trouble often being sent to solitary confinement.

Soon Hans befriends his cellmate Viktor who is so called straight but despite their different sexual preference, a bond of loyalty and love begins to form within the claustrophobic environment of a men’s prison in post-war Germany.

As the years pass, Hans manages to free the younger men including Leo and Oskar, however he remains in prison with Viktor until the revision of paragraph 175 in Germany in the early 1970’s. After Hans and Viktor’s relationship intensifies, the revision of paragraph of 175 allows Hans to go free.

As Hans realizes his new freedom and explores the sexual permissibility of 1970’s Germany he is forced to make a difficult choice. Great Freedom is a tender and explicit look at love in an impossible time and chronicle’s a struggle for equality for the LGBT community at a time when any deviant lifestyle was subjected to scrutiny and strict criminalization.

German actor Franz Rogowski is brilliant as the beautiful Hans Hoffman, an imprisoned gay man who bares all in an exceptionally provocative performance which makes such American portrayals of gay men in films like Milk or Brokeback Mountain positively tame.

Rogowski is superb as a stoic sexual deviant Hoffman in a world which was completely against him and made his life extremely difficult. The ending of Great Freedom is clever in it’s ambiguity supplanting a social crime with an actual one.

In a similar vein to the excellent Kiss of the Spiderwoman, director Sebastian Meise’s brilliant Great Freedom is a provocative gay prison drama involving a fight for equal rights and an unbridled passion between two lovers fuelled by suppressive captivity. Great Freedom gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing especially for the LGBT community.

A Wildcat against Domesticity

The Worst Person in the World

Director: Joachim Trier

Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum, Hans Olav Brenner, Maria Grazia Di Meo

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

This film is in Norwegian with English Subtitles

Best Actress Winner at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, Renate Reinsve is superb as the troubled millennial Julie in director Joachim Trier’s quirky and bizarre episodic film The Worst Person in the World, Norway’s official entry for the 2021 Best International Feature Film category at the Oscars.

Renate Reinsve is Norway’s version of British actress Keira Knightley both in looks and acting style. Reinsve plays an indecisive young woman Julie in contemporary Oslo who frequently changes career paths as often as she changes men.

However, the film focuses on a formative four years in Julie’s life as she begins a more serious relationship with a much older cartoon artist Arkel played by Anders Danielsen Lie. As Aksel introduces Julie to his friends in his age group, most of whom have children, the conversation turns to whether the couple would like to have children. At the prospect of Julie settling down with a much older man and having kids, this idea freaks her out and Julie promptly gate crashes a very hip party in central Oslo where she meets a man her own age, the handsome and muscular Ervind played by Herbert Nordrum.

Julie in between navigating the complicated relationship with her family and watching her own relationship with Aksel disintegrate, she begins an affair with Ervind and much Aksel’s shock, she unexpectedly breaks up with him. This leaves Aksel utterly bereft and lonely. This makes the selfish and indecisive Julie possibly the Worst Person in the World, a sort of Wildcat who is against any form of domesticity.

Julie and Ervind move into together and she thinks nothing more of her older ex-boyfriend besides seeing his controversial fame increase on Norwegian TV chat shows. After Julie accidentally bumps into one of Aksel’s friends Ole played by Hans Olav Brenner who tells her some distressing news about Aksels health, she reaches a cross roads in her life as she re-evaluates her relationship with Ervind while making some critical life choices.

The screenplay of The Worst Person in the World is excellent and the entire episodic film is held together tightly by a riveting performance by the ravishing Renate Reinsve. Director Joachim Trier’s Woody Allen like social comedy set in contemporary Norway is filled with angst, drama and many loose ends that leaves the viewer wishing for some form of cathartic release, something which Scandinavian film makers are not known for delivering.

The Worst Person in the World has a great title, a superb central performance and a cracking sound track but unfortunately as an episodic film some scenes could have been edited out especially the weird trippy sequence in the middle. The Worst Person in the World gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is entertaining, but not brilliant.

The Boy and the Goat

Do Not Hesitate

Director: Shariff Korver

Cast: Joes Brauers, Spencer Bogaert, Tobias Kersloot, Omar Alwan

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

This film is in Dutch with English Subtitles.

Venezuelan born director Shariff Korver brings a taut military drama to the big screen in this well-edited razor sharp drama Do Not Hesitate about three young Dutch army soldiers who are left in the desert during a foreign peace keeping force that goes wrong. The setting could be Afghanistan, but the actual location where the film was shot is probably in Greece.

The soldiers, Erik, Roy and Thomas played respectively by Joes Brauers (Quo Vadis Aida?), Spencer Bogaert and Tobias Kersloot land up in an unpredictable situation when a young boy comes into the site range and demands the return of his goat which was accidentally killed.

The immaturity of the soldiers combined with macho bravado of trying to keep sane in an isolated location slowly brews over as the try to deal with young boy played by Omar Alwyn. As the three soldiers are left to guard a military vehicle by themselves in alien territory, the situation regarding their food and water deteriorates along with the relationship between all three, with Erik trying to lead and Roy and Thomas always at odds with his commands. As they are all so young themselves, possibly in their early twenties, and without the guidance of wise council, they do not handle the situation with the young boy very well, as the prisoner becomes increasingly vocal even though he does lead the soldiers to drinking water.

From the opening sequence of Erik playing the drums loudly in his parent’s home before he goes off to the military, to the bizarre closing sequence at a nightclub in Crete, whereby all three soldiers decompress, the reality of what they have done sinks in even though they are bound by a fraternal secrecy often formed in the masculine world of the military, where civilized rules don’t apply. Jose Brauers is excellent as the leader Erik.

Director Shariff Korver fortunately keeps Do Not Hesitate engaging, taut as a wire and completely filled with anger, potential violence and remorse. Even in one of the penultimate scenes all the young soldiers remain silent when question by a military appointed psychologist.

There is omniscient danger in Do Not Hesitate but the most violence comes from the three soldiers, whose pent-up rage is eventually released.

Do Not Hesitate was the official entry from the Netherlands to be considered for the Best International Feature film Oscar for the 94th Academy Awards in 2022. Do Not Hesitate gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is a worthy improvement in contemporary Dutch cinema. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy a Dutch version of Brian de Palma’s Casualties of War.

Land of the Brave

The Emigrants

Director: Erik Poppe

Cast: Gustav Skarsgard, Sofia Helin, Mikkel Brett Silset, Lisa Carlehed, Tove Lo, Laurence Kinlan

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 28 minutes

This film is in Swedish with English Subtitles

At a running time of 2 hours and 28 minutes, Swedish director Erik Poppe’s reimagining of the book The Emigrants written by Vilhelm Moberg published in 1949 and remake of the 1971 film, is long and arduous although held together by strong performances by the two main leads Gustaf Skarsgard, as Karl-Oskar and Lisa Carlehed as Kristina, a couple who decide to take the long and dangerous voyage from Sweden to America in his film by the same name.

The Emigrants follows the story of a young couple Karl-Oskar and Kristina who leave their family behind in Sweden and immigrate to a new world, the land of the brave, America. Only able to speak Swedish and having lost their farm in Sweden, them and a whole group of their countrymen make haste and leave Sweden with the promise of a better life in a new country.

The topic of emigration is just as relevant today as it was when this film is set in the 1850’s. The Emigrants deals with a range of issues from religious intolerance, language barriers, rural hardship and the most significant issue: the resettlement of the family and children in a new land where there are better opportunities. Most people leave one country to settle in another in search of economic security and a better life for them all.

The toils of emigrants arriving in a new land has been the subject of many films from the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman 1992 film Far and Away to the more recent Oscar winning film Minari.

The 2021 film The Emigrants is a remake of the original 1971 film of the same name which starred Swedish acting legends Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman and was nominated for 5 Oscars.

Old prejudices from the homeland abound as Kristina initially resists friendship with local prostitute Ulrika played by Tove Lo, but soon as they both experience the hardships and opportunities of America, they become friends. While Karl-Oskar is busy preparing the farm in rural Minnesota for his expanding family, his wife Kristina yearns for her homeland Sweden and battles with differing religious convictions, the local Red Indian tribe and her children.

The Emigrants is epic in nature and is a story of resettlement told primarily from Kristina’s point of view and not so much from Karl-Oskar’s viewpoint which is apparently different to the original novel and the 1971 film. Interestingly, this version has a distinctly feminist slant.

Outside of the Swedish speaking world, many viewers will not be familiar with the backstory of The Emigrants, however as film, director Erik Poppe’s focus seems to linger too long on all the gory details and not so much on the general historical context era of the time.  

If viewers enjoy an epic and interesting historical adventure, then The Emigrants is recommended viewing. The 2021 version of The Emigrants gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10.

The Uncertainty Principle

The Good Boss

Director: Fernando Leon de Aranoa

Starring: Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Almudena Amor, Oscar de la Fuente, Tarek Rmili¸ Sonia Almarcha, Fernando Albizu

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes

This film is in Spanish with English subtitles

The extraordinary depth of talent of Spanish actor and Oscar winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) can be seen in the humorous yet clever comedy The Good Boss starring Bardem in the title role as Blanco, the owner of a factory in Spain that makes scales on an industrial level.

As an inherited factory owner, Blanco likes to treats his employees as his family yet in the week whereby his company could receive a prestigious European industrial award, Blanco has to contend with a whole range of bizarre occurrences at his factory including the crazy antics of fired worker Jose played by Oscar de la Fuente who decides to create a single man strike right outside the company’s headquarters much to Blanco’s literal disgust.

As Spain’s official entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 2022 Academy Awards, The Good Boss is a superb almost cynical look at how a Boss manages to stay on top amidst his colleagues meltdown, a distraction by a beautiful yet provocative young intern Liliana wonderfully played with panache by Almudena Amor and the pestering Jose whose continued presence outside the factory causes a problem for Blanco.

Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Being the Ricardo’s) inhabits every aspect of this role as a duplicitous, commanding and ultimately egotistical boss Blanco who manages to outwit all these business and personal complications except for one. Bardem commands the screen and is brilliant as the wealthy yet slimy Blanco who appears to please everyone, but is ultimately protecting the company and himself.

The rest of the supporting cast are equally good although this comedy drama belongs to Bardem. The Good Boss is a cutting comedy of manners about workplace politics, illicit liaisons, scheming and betrayals while shining a cynical look on the hierarchal structure of industrial companies, from the boss to the head of production to the secretary and of course the misbehaving interns.

Like a work week, director Fernando Leon de Aranoa divides the film into days of the week, so it appears episodic in nature but in actual fact every little occurrence tips the scales of fairness against Blanco without him realizing it, adding the uncertainty principle into a series of events in which the boss appears to be in control. From the humorous exchanges between Blanco and the security guard Roman played by Fernando Albizu to Blanco’s deceitful affection towards his beautiful wife Adela played by Sonia Almarcha, The Good Boss is everything but decent.

The Good Boss is highly recommended viewing, a clever adult comedy about work politics, infidelity and underhand industrial tactics.

The Good Boss gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and Javier Bardem is absolutely phenomenal. Highly recommended viewing.

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