Review: The Odd-Job Men
- Neus Ballús follows a trio of handymen as they carry out home visits, revealing a whole new wonderful, amusing and brightly coloured world just outside of our own four walls
Don’t be fooled by the original Spanish title of Neus Ballús’ new film “Seis días corrientes” ("Six Ordinary Days"; international title: The Odd-Job Men [+see also:
interview: Neus Ballús
film profile]). There’s nothing whatsoever that’s banal about this movie, currently competing in the Locarno Film Festival. On the contrary, this third feature film by the Catalan director is overflowing with originality, audacity and a mad urge to try new things, whether in terms of its actors, its film language, its improvised situations, the accessibility of its story, the naturalness of its main characters or the extraordinary aspects of day-to-day life. It’s a film with a natural flow, which oscillates between documentary and comedy whilst bathing in surrealism, and which doesn’t allow the most rancid kind of socially engaged cinema (the type of cinema which we might erroneously associate with this film on account of its subject-matter) to clog up its waterworks.
The heroes of the film are three plumbers. Standing out among them is Valero, a compulsive chatterbox who doesn’t pause for breath, not even underwater, with pockets full of prejudices and unfailing tenacity. Then there’s Pep, a veteran in the trade who’s still very alert but is soon to take retirement and considers himself a stalwart of professional perfectionism. Their fantastic trio is rounded off by Moha, a Moroccan man who’s on a week’s trial as a potential replacement for Pep and whose timid exterior conceals great sensitivity.
Head over heels in love with her characters, Ballús places them in a variety of extravagant situations in the six scenes which succeed one another, episode-like, over the course of the film. Bolstered by the charisma of its actors, the director invites the audience to get to know those around them, “Others”, beings who are different yet so close to ourselves, and to try to understand them and accept them as they are.
To this end, the director calls upon the best tool on the market for unblocking mental pipes: a smile. Because much like a water leak, humour bursts suddenly onto the scene during each and every one of the visits made by our artisanal repairmen in the different settings where their manual skills are called upon. And, without revealing the plot, these homes are as recognisable as they are authentic: full of life and of experiences, the kind which aren’t only familiar to viewers, but which also sustain the daily lives of those who know how to make the best of them and to get the most out of them in the most empathy-inducing manner.
Based on a screenplay more or less inspired by real-life events and written by the director alongside Margarita Melgar (a pseudonym for the duo composed of Montse Ganges and Ana Sanz-Magallón), Odd-Job Men depicts a colourful, magnetic and close-to-home form of humanity where rivalry, jealousy, seduction, demands, perfectionism, friendship and power relations all make themselves felt, hidden beneath a healthy dose of the abundant humour highlighted above.
Odd-Job Men is produced by Distinto Films and El Kinògraf, under the aegis of the University Pompeu Fabra’s Master in Creative Documentaries, with support from Radio Televisión Española, Televisió de Catalunya and Movistar Plus+. The film will be released in Spanish cinemas in autumn 2021, distributed by Filmax. International sales are in the hands of Beta Cinema.
(Translated from Spanish)
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