15 Years + 1 Day
by Alfonso Rivera
- Director Gracia Querejeta from Madrid again addresses the theme of adolescence and the way in which the turmoil it causes can affect family dynamic.
What goes through the minds of young people? Why do they sometimes have a way of playing with their lives, for no apparent reason? Where does the responsibility of adults stop as to what they actually do? Gracia Querejeta is a director who has always been interested in the secret, emotional and intimate mechanisms of this subtle and fragile structure we call a family. Her films scrutinize this microcosm that we all have in common simply by virtue of being born; they dissect these subterranean currents and shed light on the most evocative conflicts. It is this direct empathy created by Querejeta that gives her stories their strength: however silent, subtle, too quiet nearly, they may be, she gives them universal resonance.
Screened at the last Spanish Film Festival of Malaga, 15 Years + 1 Day [+see also:
interview: Gracia Querejeta
film profile] (t.o. 15 años y un día) won no less than four prizes: Best Film, Best Screenplay, Prize of the Critics and Best Original Soundtrack. This is the first film that Garcia has attempted to direct without the backing of her father’s production company, the great Elias Querejeta, who is most probably one of the figures who has done the most for Spanish cinema since its inception. Illness kept him from taking part in his daughter’s project. He died on June 8th, the day after the movie was released, much to the despair of fans of author cinema and cinematographic audacity. Gracia was lucky enough to grow up besides this maestro and rub shoulders on a daily basis with his passion for intimate stories that talked about life; this passion is now inscribed in her genes.
Her new film once again proves this, just like her previous works, Siete mesas de billar francés, Héctor, Robert Rylands’ Last Journey and Una estación de paso. The family remains the epicentre of all the upheavals she describes in her movies. In 15 Years + 1 Day, she introduces us to a teenager called Jon (Arón Piper) who, because of his attitude, ends up pushing his mother’s patience to its limits (Maribel Verdú). She decides to send him to the South for a week, to his grandfather’s house (Tito Valverde in the role of a character who has the same name as the hero of What Max Said, a film co-written and produced by Elias Querejeta in which Gracia played in her youth).
The absence of a father figure in the young man’s life is then offset by the authority of this ex-military man used to a disciplined, rigid and strict lifestyle, now enjoying his tranquillity to the full. The encounter between the boy and the old man gives rise to a “train collision”, which is how the director (and co-screenwriter) describes it herself. The old man is not used to such a presence and the youngster has never met anyone with such rigid principles. They do, however, have something in common: they both suffer from emotional paralysis.
Without ever falling into sensationalism or banality, and even less into a kind of X-ray diagnosis of the "young savages” seen in newspapers and films, Querejeta describes the convulsion experienced by a family due to the fact that a turbulent teenager suddenly comes a little too close to death. She conveys what happens in the mind of the adult who feels responsible for what is happening to the teenager. The result is a film both sober and concise, but also charged with emotion, which puts all the weight of the drama on the shoulders of the actors.
The result is a film that does not reach out to a wide audience but follows the famous motto of Elias Querejeta, to whom 15 Years + 1 Day is dedicated: "Making films only to make money is of no interest to me".
(Translated from Spanish)
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