Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Gaby’s mother is a TV news reader. His father sells household alarm systems. He has ginger hair and the school bullies call him Carrot and chase him through the streets.

Guille’s father is a councillor, with a bodyguard. His mother wears designer clothes and gives smart dinner parties. He is small for 14, beautiful like a girl and the leader of the Carrot baiters.

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Obviously privileged, these kids suffer another kind of alienation. They have no meaningful communication with their parents and live in self-imposed isolation from the adult world. Guille has his gang and Gaby has a text buddy who becomes his girlfriend. In this rarefied atmosphere where the teenagers have every advantage available to children of high achievers the worst sin is snitching, which means that when Gaby’s schoolwork starts slipping and he comes home black and blue from physical assaults, he never says a word. Silence may be golden but for those who care about him, like his mother (“He doesn’t even trust us enough to talk”), it feels like rejection.

Although susceptible to stereotypes – Guille’s macho dad (“You have to learn to defend yourself”), Gaby’s friendship with the Italian chef (“The Bible says, ‘An eye for an eye’”) at the pizzeria, the wisdom of youth (“When you’re scared, no one hears you”) – this is a sophisticated and honest film about the misuse of power in a cultural vacuum, where the example of the ruling class is hypocritical at best and school is locked down with psychological irrelevancies when, for some, like Gaby, survival is the only lesson worth learning.

The dilemma is not how to curb bullying amongst rich kids, but how to bring up children and remain close enough to talk to them. In this case, the fathers are proud of their success, although Gaby’s dad does not have the status of Guille’s. It is the mothers who suffer. And, to a certain extent, this is their story.

The film implies that bullies are cowards, a cliché in itself. What feels worse than Guille’s impotent rage - at never being as certain, or as forceful, as his father? - is the emptiness at the heart of family. Love may heal the wounds of adolescence, but emotional isolation is the prison from which these lost boys never escape.

Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2009
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Communication breakdown and teenage bullying in a privileged Spanish day school.

Director: José Corbacho, Juan Cruz

Writer: José Corbacho, Juan Cruz

Starring: Eduardo Garé, Elvira Mínguez, Eduardo Espinilla, Paz Padilla, Antonio de la Torre, Lluís Homar

Year: 2008

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Spain


Viva 2009
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