Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Opening in grainy blue and white, Thieves makes no secret of its art film credentials. It's the story of an unnamed boy who helps his mother to steal things. When his mother is taken away, the boy is raised in an orphanage where, by all accounts, he is a good boy. Coming out, he gets a job as a barber and tries to go straight, but there's something about stealing which he finds compulsive, and when he sees a young woman doing it badly he can't resist trying to help her. Meanwhile, he spends his spare time trying to track down his mother. The young woman, thinks that she and the boy are falling in love, but does he feel the same way or is he looking for something else - a replacement for his mother, or for himself?

Thieves suffers from a story which is really too slight for its length, but explores its metaphorical aspects in some depth. Is the urge to steal a disease which each character in turn passes on to someone else, or is it an addiction which they justify to themselves by involving others? We never really meet the people who are being stolen from; the focus is not on moral conflict but, rather, on the thrill of getting away with it and the danger of getting caught. At least until the boy begins to realise that his life has been stolen from him.

Copy picture

Although it doesn't stick with the blue and white, Thieves is shot largely in an experimental way which lulls the viewer into accepting the different perspective of its protagonists and creates a sense of distance between them and the world in which their targets live. Its long, slow takes can become a bit frustrating, not really affecting enough to be justified, but its faster sequences are very effective, especially as they mirror the boy's mental disintegration. Sequences undoubtedly intended to reflect the film's reality are nevertheless shot amid bizarre iconography which evokes a dream world, yet this is never overdone - it rounds out, rather than reduces, the film's emotional impact.

A difficult film to engage with, Thieves is nevertheless an interesting work offering a very different way of looking at the world.

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2008
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Thieves packshot
A youth taught to steal in early childhood finds himself resorting to it almost compulsively as he searches for his mother.

Director: Jaime Marques

Writer: Juan Ibáñez, Enrique López Lavigne

Starring: Juan José Ballesta, María Valverde, Patrick Bauchau, María Ballesteros

Year: 2007

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: Spain

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