An elderly man returns to Spain after visiting the US during the Gold Rush and losing his fortune. He returns because his son has died leaving two daughters, and the son has left a note stating that one of the two is a bastard child. The grandfather hopes to find out which is his true granddaughter. Written by
My immediate impression after seeing this film for the first time (and any really good film needs to be seen at least twice) was that at last here was another little masterpiece to add to the very limited cinematographical treasure troves produced by Spain in the last quarter of a century. 'El Abuelo' stands very well alongside `El Sur' (1982) and `Los Santos Inocentes' (1984), these two also being adapted from novels. I cannot help thinking that Garci is at his best when with the help of Valcárcel he adapts a story from real Spanish literature. As perhaps the most prestigious and prize-winning Spanish director (we shall pass over Almodóvar and his commercially orientated light entertainment), having won at Hollywood, Montreal, and Spain's own Goya prize several times, he has produced some memorable films and TV series (Historias del Otro Lado - Stories from the Other Side), mostly because he has that acute eye for capturing every detail as he shoots his scenes. He knows how to use his actors, and never better than in `El Abuelo'. The leading actors bring sincere interpretations, full of feeling, adding beauty to the situations being developed. The film is also a little tribute to Rafael Alonso, who died without seeing the finished film: his life ended with the hugely memorable part of an unpresuming private home teacher to the two little girls - Dolly and Nelly - one of whom is not really Don Rodrigo's granddaughter. Fernán Gómez is of course perfect, as he has been in most of his films in recent years, and Agustín González has at last played his best rôle in the whole of his acting career. Don Rodrigo returns from the Americas where he lost a fortune, to find out which of the two girls was due to his daughter-in-law's unfaithfulness. The novel itself is `costumbrista' as is also the novel by Concha Espina, `El Junco', which deals with a similar situation. Manuel Balboa once again has been exquisite in choosing his music and I must mention the sumptuous photography by Raúl Pérez Cubero, beautifully, lovingly captured in the countryside and around the grand old house, worth any prizes that may be floating around out there.....But I do not believe in prizes: they mostly exist only to perpetuate themselves. `El Abuelo' does not need any prizes - it stands up on its own merits: simply a wonderful film telling a story with simplicity and feeling.
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