Therapy through comedy
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Daniel Sánchez Arévalo’s La gran familia española is the most popular entry in the TIFF The Usual Suspects sidebar
“For me, cinema is a form of therapy,” said Daniel Sánchez Arévalo in an interview with Cineuropa in 2009. Five years and two successful features later, Spain’s master of family dramedy proves to be on the same happy and funny page with La gran familia española [+see also:
film profile], his 11-times Goya-nominated fourth feature, currently being screened in the Transilvania International Film Festival’s The Usual Suspects sidebar, which showcases new features by former award winners. An ode to love, understanding and sincerity, La gran familia española has all the right ingredients for great entertainment and every chance of becoming an audience darling all over the world.
As with his previous directorial efforts, Sánchez Arévalo intertwines comedy and drama to tell the complex and funny story of a family of five brothers, all with biblical, alphabetically ordered names. It’s a time of great joy for all of them, as the youngest, Efraín (Patrick Criado) is getting married to his childhood sweetheart, Carla (Arantxa Martí). Before their father’s wise and sad (his wife left him eight years prior) eyes, all of the brothers reunite for the occasion – even Caleb (Sánchez Arévalo’s regular, Quim Gutiérrez), a doctor who has spent the last two years helping refugees in Kenya.
The fact that the long-planned wedding happens to take place exactly when the Spanish football team plays the final match of the 2010 World Cup complicates things even more, but Sánchez Arévalo’s screenplay focuses on the rich, complicated, unpredictable and sometimes even mysterious relationships between the family members. It’s a promising premise, and aided by his tremendous flair and keen eye for detail, the director uses a rollercoaster of emotions and secrets to show how funny and, sometimes, melodramatic a family can be.
The film is helped enormously by its excellent cast, with Antonio de la Torre as Adán, the depressive older brother; the amazing Roberto Álamo as the childlike Benjamín, who may seem helpless but proves to be the guiding heart of the entire family; and Miquel Fernández as the insecure Daniel, afraid of a confrontation with Caleb, whose ex-girlfriend Cris (Verónica Echegui) is now his life partner.
Although it occasionally suffers because of some exaggerated and implausible details, the director’s ability to switch from emotion to comedy, the actors’ energy and humour, DoP Juan Carlos Gómez’s luminous cinematography, Satur Idarreta's colourful art direction and Nacho Ruiz Capillas’ inventive editing all make La gran familia española an excellent family comedy.
Sánchez Arévalo’s love story with the TIFF (30 May-8 June) dates back to the Spanish director’s first feature, DarkBlueAlmostBlack [+see also:
film profile], which was included in the 2006 international competition, won the Audience Award, and was then distributed in Romania by Transilvania Film, the festival’s distribution partner. In 2010, Fat People [+see also:
interview: Daniel Sánchez Arévalo
Interview with Daniel Sánchez-Arévalo,…
film profile] also won the Audience Award, and in 2012, Cousinhood [+see also:
film profile] was screened in Unirii Square, the festival’s most popular sidebar.
The comedy has already been bought by Transilvania Film, and a local release is expected during the second half of the year.