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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2020 RTVE Screenings

Review: The People Upstairs


- Cesc Gay adapts his hit play, where a couple is condemned to an evening’s entertaining with their neighbours from across the hall — soon, small talk becomes the least of their problems

Review: The People Upstairs
Javier Cámara, Belén Cuesta, Alberto San Juan and Griselda Siciliani in The People Upstairs

The San Sebastián International Film Festival is hosting a special gala to unveil a few of the RTVE Presentations, one month ahead of their general release in Spain. Among them is the latest offering from Barcelona’s Cesc Gay, a filmmaker who always strikes a chord with audiences thanks to his unerring portrayal of contemporary urbanites and their all-too-familiar narcissism. The film is called The People Upstairs [+see also:
interview: Cesc Gay
film profile
and it’s a cinematic adaptation of his hit play, Los vecinos de arriba.

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The entire story takes place in the rather chic and bijou flat where Julio and Ana are preparing for an evening’s entertaining. Ana (played by Argentinian actress Griselda Siciliani) is all anticipation as she prepares some appetisers to offer their guests: the couple who have recently moved in across the hall. Julio (Javier Cámara), an avid reader of Houellebecq, seems to have been marinading in the same blend of caustic resentment. The prospect of the evening ahead does not fill him with joy, and so when Salva, a fireman (Alberto San Juan) and Laura, a psychologist (Belén Cuesta) ring the doorbell, they find themselves face-to-face with the couple from Kramer vs. Kramer.

Do you have a neighbour you avoid sharing the lift with? Do you spy on the woman on the fourth floor when she gets out of the shower with the curtains open? Are you sick to the back teeth of being woken up in the middle of the night by other people’s racket? If this is sounding familiar, The People Upstairs will have you snickering in recognition. Gay’s command of the witty comeback creates some priceless moments, as antithetical characters are thrown together with all their pettiness and neuroses, and the film becomes a hilarious study in how to sour any social relation.

Watching it feels a bit like therapy, as we are reminded that there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in your own head, feeding your own fixations, repeating old routines ad nauseum and resisting change at all costs: a certain recipe for putrefaction. Far better to throw open the windows, look the new and different in the eyes, and breathe easy, letting the clean fresh air oxygenate your mustiest habits. You’ll feel better for it, and your neighbours (above or below) will thank you — as will the rest of us.

The People Upstairs was produced by Imposible Films and Sentimentalfilm AIE. Filmax is handling international sales. The film is set for release in Spain on 30 October, also distributed by Filmax.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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