Eye For Film >> Movies >> Under The Stars (2007) Film Review
Under The Stars
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
When it comes to caring, Benito "Benny Lacun" Lacuna, knows who is number one. Selfish and self-satisfied, with a highly inflated sense of his own prowess as a jazz trumpeter, he's the kind of guy that would make The Grinch grin. When he receives a call at the Madrid pad he shares with his long-suffering girlfriend, telling him that his dad is dying, he's more concerned he'll miss an opportunity to forward his career in the city than he is that he'll miss his father's passing.
Despite his misgivings, he is enticed back to the Navarre countryside with thoughts of how to split his inheritance with his bro Lalo (Julián Villagrán), but it is a journey that will end up being as much spiritual as physical. After barely spending five minutes in his father's house - just long enough to check if his dad has any cash in the cabinet and pee on the bathroom floor in a typical act of territory marking - he heads out to see Lalo. His brother is as fragile as Benny is brash, finding his feet again, with the help of sculpting and a relationship with flighty single mum Nines (who, it transpires, knew Benny back in the day).
Nines (Emma Suárez) is recovering from her own drug demons, which have left her young daughter Ainara (Violeta Rodríguez) almost as traumatised as she is and it is Ainara who comes to offer Benny redemption. He meets her after bluffing his way into her house, hoping to strike up a conversation with Nines. But when he discovers she's home alone, they form a tentative relationship. He sees in her the devil could care less attitude that has grown to be a permanent part of his own outlook and, through reaching out to her finds his own opinions softening.
It is to Félix Viscaret's credit that the transition of Benny from reckless to responsible never feels forced. It simply begins to dawn on him that he cares about these people and that they, in turn, are coming to rely upon him, so that when tragedy strikes after a drunken night out, he finds himself in the unlikely role of protector rather than provocateur.
Viscaret, finds humour in heartbreak and unlike many first-time feature directors he doesn't feel the need to overload the action with showy camerawork - although his framing is lovely throughout.The characters are facing up to a heap of troubles, but his script has a lightness that skips across the heartstrings, rather than wallowing in woe. And while there is comedy here - such as Benny teaching Ainara how to hide her smoking habit from her mum - it never clogs up the film's emotional heart. In the wrong hands, Benny could just be an unsympathetic oaf, but Alberto San Juan always manages to keep him twinkling through his caddishness in a performance which saw him win a Goya Award last year. In fact, none of the characters seem particularly likeable at face value, but Viscaret draws them in such a detailed way that it is easy to see the humanity beneath the facade. Bittersweet has rarely felt so life-affirming.Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2008