Seventy-something Don Anselmo, a retired minister, becomes obsessed with owning a motorized wheelchair and fakes infirmity to get it.



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Cast overview:
José Isbert ...
Pedro Porcel ...
Carlos Proharán
José Luis López Vázquez ...
María Luisa Ponte ...
Antonio Gavilán ...
Don Hilario
Lepe ...
Chus Lampreave ...
Yolanda (as María Jesús Lampreave)
Ángel Álvarez ...
Carmen Santonja ...
Julita (as Mari Carmen Santonja)
Antonio Riquelme ...
María Isbert
Jesusa de Castro
Antonio Jiménez Escribano


Septuagenarian Don Anselmo Proharan, a retired government minister, finds himself sharing living space with his son, a penurious, bourgeoisie solicitor and his family. Don Anselmo, a widower, is restricted to one room of the house, and his social life has narrowed to attending wakes, funerals, and visiting the cemetery. When his paraplegic friend Don Lucas, gets a motorized wheelchair, Proharan accompanies him to his wife's grave to leave flowers. Don Anselmo soon becomes obsessed with getting his own "little coach" and joining the subculture of other "cochetito" owners. However, when his tight-fisted son refuses to buy a chair for him, the old man tries several gambits to get one. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama






Release Date:

29 June 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Little Coach  »

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Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Don Hilario: [to Don Anselmo] After all, by the year 2000 no one will use their legs... except soccer players, of course. But everyone else will go around in coaches.
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Featured in The Story of Film: An Odyssey: European New Wave (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

On Golden Wheelchair
30 June 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Despite a long and prolific career, Marco Ferreri is not as well known outside his native Italy as contemporaries like Fellini and Antonioni. His anarchic, iconoclastic vision of the world and bizarre, often surreal humor may be the reason. Although on the surface this early film initially seems grounded in the Neo-Realist tradition of DeSica's "Umberto D," it carries a bittersweet subversive theme that would become increasingly apparent in Ferreri's later work.

Jose Isbert plays septuagenarian Don Anselmo Proharan, a retired government minister who has reluctantly ceded his home to son Carlos, an officious, condescending solicitor, his bourgeoisie wife, and Yolanda, their homely daughter. Carlos' law offices, which he shares with his daughter's ambitious fiancé, are also located on the premises, so Don Anselmo is limited to a single stifling and confining room in his own home. As he also has to share space with Yolanda, the old man has no sense of peace and quiet or privacy. In addition, Carlos has control of his father's pension, which he parsimoniously doles out as a parent would to a child, further restricting the old man's freedom. Ferreri emphasizes the situation with very effective traveling shots that follow the old man around the house's constrictive, almost claustrophobic, corridors.

Don Anselmo's only escape seems to be attending funerals, and when his paraplegic friend Don Lucas gets a motorized wheelchair, known as a "cochetito," Proharan accompanies him to his wife's grave to leave flowers. Don Anselmo soon becomes obsessed with getting his own "little coach" and joining the subculture of other "cochetito" owners that Don Lucas belongs to which congregates and interacts daily. These physically challenged people have achieved an exhilarating sense of independence and freedom, and the old man views joining them as an escape from his restricted life with his tyrannical family. However, to join them, he needs his own "little coach."

Like Toad in Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows," Don Anselmo becomes obsessed with owning one and regaining his lost dignity. When his tight-fisted son dismisses his requests for his own chair, the old man tries several gambits in which he feigns physical infirmity to get one. Frustrated, Don Anselmo sells his dead wife's jewelry in order to buy a cochetito outright, but the son, who has already earmarked the jewelry for his daughter, humiliates the old man by forcing him to return the "cochetito" and reclaimimg his mother's jewels.

After further humiliating him, the son threatens to institutionalize the old man, to the delight of granddaughter Yolande, who is only too eager to co-opt the bedroom for herself. His self-esteem shattered, a desperate Don Anselmo poisons his family's food and runs away from home like a disaffected teenager. The film ends ambiguously with many issues left unresolved.

Ferreri directed his early films in Spain, and Don Anselmo's repression by his bourgeoisie family could be interpreted as a quietly subversive allegorical criticism of Spanish dictator's Francisco Franco's repressive fascist state. The whimsical early scene when Don Anselmo sees a surreal line of men marching in military fashion armed with mop handles for guns and wearing toilet bowls for helmets is in stark contrast to the film's more sober conclusion when the fugitive old man is arrested by the iconic uniformed actual Guardia Civil.

In any case, Ferreri left Spain for his native Italy after the release of "El Cochecito" and although this minor masterpiece is relatively obscure, he soon received some international critical acclaim for trenchantly scathing social satires like "The Ape Woman," "The Conjugal Bed," "La Grand Bouffe," and Felliniesque burlesques like "Don't Touch the White Woman," a wild send-up of Custer's Last Stand set in Paris.

Ferreri would return to the theme of aging with dignity in the poignantly sobering realism of "The House of Smiles" nearly three decades later. The director has been quoted as saying that his job is to give the audience a "punch in the stomach." "El Cochecito" is a punch, albeit a gentle one.

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