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In the early 60s, two boys - Ignacio and Enrique - discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school. Father Manolo, the school principal and Literature teacher, both witnesses and takes part in these discoveries. The three characters come against one another twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980. These meetings are set to change the life and death of some of them. Written by
A wonderful film despite being hard to watch at times and having some weaknesses at the end
Enrique is a film director working on his new project when an old school friend, Ignacio, arrives looking for acting work. Enrique fobs him off with excuses and Ignacio leaves him with a story he has written called 'The Visit'. The story is based on their childhood together as well as having a totally fictional section where Ignacio (Zahara). As Enrique reads the story it takes him back to his childhood effectively where they fell in love as boys before being separated by Father Manolo who also loved Ignacio. When he decides to make the film of the story it only serves to spark more memories as well as bringing revelations.
When I read the plot summary for this film I assumed that it would be difficult to penetrate (pardon the pun) and that I would struggle to follow it. Now that I think back on it I wonder how on earth I managed to follow a film that has threads and characters that don't exist even within the film and it is to the film's credit that it works really well. The film appears to have about three of four stories but really it is only one story that we are being told and a very effective story it is. It is engaging and very well written we care about the characters even as they change and trick us. Only the final 20 minutes appear to be unsure of themselves and it is here that the film drags slightly, but at till this point it is all great. This is not to say it is an easy watch because it isn't.
If you are homophobic then this is not the film for you I am used to seeing shows (Oz, 6 Ft Under) where such acts are portrayed but I was taken aback by the graphic nature of the acts here. I don't mean you see anything but it leaves very little to your imagination. This is not a problem it's just that many men may find this difficult to watch. Likewise scenes involving mutual masturbation between young boys is hardly something that one can watch without feeling slightly uncomfortable. However the one thing the film does through all this is deliver good characters. As much as I couldn't watch Ignacio licking his fingers to wet his 'area' and ease penetrate I still liked him as a character. Even more pleasing was the fact that the film never makes Father Manolo a monster; of course there is no sympathy for the man in the film but it could have just made him a lecherous beast who the audience immediately hate a pantomime villain but the script creates a more complex character.
The cast do a great job of delivering these characters and they make it work very well even if come of them have to change characters midstream or be one of several actors playing the same character. Martínez plays the most consistent character in the film and he does well with a good part, even if he has a less showy role than some others. Bernal has the most difficult role and he does really well to keep the audience with him while delivering all sorts of roles! If nothing else he is a brave actor and he deserves good parts to do more work like this. I don't know the rest of the actors by name but I enjoyed the other queen in the fictional part and also the guy who played Manolo in the fictionalised and childhood sections. Boira's Ignacio lacks subtlety and is overblown but by his point of the film I think that was the whole point.
Overall this is far from most people's cup of tea even those used to seeing art films may find it hard going due to the graphic simulation of the sexual acts within the film. But despite this the film is really well delivered. Many Almodóvar fans have said this is one of his lesser films but I cannot agree when I think of the skill he displays in keeping the difficult narrative together. The characters are mostly well written and the story is engaging even if it flags a little bit at the end.
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