Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Writer/director Santi Amadeo showed he wasn’t afraid to set the pace with his debut Astronautas and he doesn’t take his foot off the throttle in his follow up either. From the beginning, the story of Samuel unfolds at an almost breakneck speed, full of flashback segments and quirky camera tics. Those who manage to follow the frenzy along with the Spanish subtitles, will learn – courtesy of what will soon become a highly irritating voice-over – that Samuel suffers from a rare brain disease, which presents like a type of epilepsy. It means he frequently has ‘absences’ which render him unable to hear, see or move. He also has a disconnected relationship with others, as though he can’t quite get a handle on emotion, a situation that leads him to brand himself ‘doghead’.

After a chance invite at a funeral, Samuel goes to the Costa del Sol to visit his cousin Eduardo (a nice turn from Julián Villagrán), who, in his own way, also lacks connections - living a hedonistic but ultimately rather sad lifestyle. When a typical evening for Eduardo runs too late for Samuel – who needs plenty of sleep to stave off episodes of his illness – he crashes out on a mattress in the back of a van, only to find himself waking up miles away from home and his cousin, in Madrid.

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It is here that Samuel’s journey really begins. Now even more disconnected than ever – a stranger in a strange city – he, paradoxically, begins to form a series of relationships. After finding himself flat-sharing with Consuela – a girl he meets by chance and whose emotional problems threaten to out-weird his own – he drifts into an offbeat relationship both with her and with an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer Angelito, who Samuel views as a kindred spirit, since he, too, is frequently held to ransom by his own mind.

Amadeo makes great use of the soundscape of the film - a fairground-style jingling soundtrack - and maelstroms of moving images to mimic the Samuel’s symptoms, offering us a window into his condition and helping us to get a handle on the eggshell fragility of his emotions.

Although the tone is a little uneven and the narratorial voice – never identified and never welcome – more of an affectation than any real use to the plot, there is a charm and verve to Amadeo’s film. One or two images – particularly a pivotal one involving an unfortunate act of vandalism in a church – are beautifully rendered, and Juan Jose Ballesta’s charming performance as Samuel goes a long way to helping you overlook the film’s failings. Adriana Ugarte – making her full feature debut – also shows a lot of promise, finding fragility in Consuela’s fiery outburts, while Manuel Alexandre steals almost every scene he is in as the scatty but warm-hearted Angelito. Although not making any great statement on the state of the world, as an examination of an offbeat love affair, Doghead is distinctive and diverting.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2008
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An emotionally disconnected teenager finds himself forming relationships after becoming stranded in Madrid.

Director: Santi Amodeo

Writer: Santi Amodeo

Starring: Juan José Ballesta, Adriana Ugarte, Manuel Alexandre, Julián Villagrán, Eugenio Roca, Ana Wagener, Mariano Peña, Ana Gracia, Jordi Dauder

Year: 2006

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain


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