Fat People

Fat People


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ensemble casts hold no fear for writer/director Daniel Sánchez Arévalo. His debut feature Azuloscurocasinegro made a virtue of its multiple plotlines and characters and much the same is true of his second film. And while the sheer number of characters here means that he struggles to maintain his balancing act for the entire runtime, it is amazing how many ideas he does manage to juggle at once without dropping them.

The premise of Fat People is perfectly indicated by the title. But this is not a comedy from the tawdry end of the movie market. Although some of the jokes are visual and fun is occasionally poked at plumpness, there is an awful lot more going on here than simply laughing at the fat kid in the corner.

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Abel (Roberto Enriquez) - blessed with no weight issues himself but who we come to learn has other weight-associated problems - is a therapist who leads self-help groups for the overweight. Adopting a full-frontal approach to his classes - he strips and asks them to do likewise in the very first session - he attempts to get at the heart of why people become fat in the first place.

Joining his group this time around are a suitably disparate set of characters. Interestingly, for the women in the group, it is seemingly men who are acting as a driver to drop the pounds. Sofia (Leticia Herrero) is a devout Christian who is currently playing the waiting game for sex with fiancee Alex (Raul Arévalo), petrified that she's too fat to be desirable, while Leonor (María Morales), has been piling on the pounds as she pines for her boyfriend who is working away and is terrified he won't want her once he finds out.

The men, meanwhile, have altogether different reasons for wanting to banish their bellies. Actor Enrique (Antonio de la Torre) is a former star of weight-loss adverts who has lost both his boyfriend and his contract as a result of becoming obese and scientist Andres (Fernando Albizu) is desperate not to follow other male members of his family to an early grave.

Arévalo cleverly links together the stories with a couple of subplots - one involving Andres' problematic teenage twins Nuria (Marta Martin) and Luis (Adam Jezierski) and a second concerning Abel's pregnant wife Paula (Veronica Sanchez), who also just happens to be a teacher at Nuria and Luis' school.

That set-up sounds a bit overweight and it's true Arévalo might have been well-advised to trim it a little, but it's surprising how well he manoeuvres between the storylines, drawing parallels and finding a wealth of tension and humour in each. The large number of protagonists affords space to examine obesity and skinniness from several different angles, ages and social settings, all the while suggesting, perhaps unsurprisingly, that it isn't really the weight that is the issue. That may sound a little trite, but as in Azuloscurocasinegro, Arévalo nimbly avoids cliché and easy answers in favour of satirising society's attitudes to appearance and desirability, showing how people often find themselves trapped by the expectations of others.

He again shows a flair for visuals - a scene cutting between sex and labour is a particular stand-out - and praise is due to editors David Pinillos and Nacho Ruiz Capillas, whose work here is sharp and slick. The acting is excellent across the board, with Antonio de la Torre standing out as the actor who can barely suppress his rage at himself or those around him. The ending, when it finally arrives, pushes one or two ideas a little too far, but it's a small blot on an otherwise very engaging film.

This is ultimately neither a castigation nor an celebration of fatness, but a look at what lies beneath.

Reviewed on: 16 Mar 2011
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Ensemble comedy drama, in which a slimming class self-help group find that weight is the least of their problems.
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Viva 2011

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