Pablo's Winter

Pablo's Winter


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"I should have died two years ago," says Pablo. "The way I see it, all this is extra time."

He's referring to his succession of heart attacks.Talking to the doctor, he's dismissive about these. Heart attacks happen, don't they? He's not convinced they're anything to do with the 20 Winstons a day he's smoked since childhood. Neither is he convinced by his wife's protests about passive smoking. Has she ever seen a man hurt his back from watching someone else dig a hole? No? Well, then.

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A simple portrait of this stubborn old man, told at a languid pace with beautiful black and white photography, Pablo's Winter is also a portrait of the village where he lives and a tribute to the generations of men who worked there in the mercury mines. It's a village where the old men see suffering and death simply as a part of the life process. The deaths of sheep are discussed brusquely but not without sympathy. The death of local industry is a source of regret. Now tourists come to the mine. They only see the nicest parts, layered with romanticism. Pablo and his former workmates' grim humour is kept at a safe distance. These are men who once spent 11 days in a row in the tunnels, in a protest for improved labour rights. The tourists smile when told of their tributes to a staue of the Madonna. In the deeper darkness, we come to understand that devotion a little better.

Pablo likes "doing things," he says. Not handicrafts - those things are for pansies. He likes strong coffee and card games, time spent with the friends who, on hearing he's truing to quit the cigarettes, offer him a joint. Meanwhile we meet a village boy, Jaime, who seems to struggle with everything in life. Patiently, Pablo helps him gain the confidence to ride a bike. There's a hint here of old pastoral poetry, the notion that rural dwellers are closer to the stuff of life than their urban cousins. If this is true of Pablo, it isn't always something to envy. Life is hard and ought to be improved, but he doesn't need to compromise that conviction to be grateful for it, to reveal a secret warmth that will draw viewers to him despite the casually obnoxious things he says.

Pablo's story takes us directly into a world that is solid and clearly drawn, a geographical and cultural space whose rules give us a better insight into our own. It's a fine tribute and an enchanting piece of cinema.

Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2013
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Pablo has had seven heart attacks but, despite the pleas of his wife and doctor, has no intention of giving up smoking.

Director: Chico Pereira

Year: 2012

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2013

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