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The valley of Arratia in August 1999. Ander, a farmer well into his forties, lives with his sister Arantxa and his old mother in a remote part of rural Basque country. His is a monotonous life filled with nothing but farm work and a job at the local bicycle factory. It won't be long before Arantxa gets married and leaves home and then Ander will be left to look after their stubborn mother on his own. Then one day Ander has an accident and breaks his leg. His limb will be in a plaster cast for two months. Against his mother's wishes, the family decides to employ a Peruvian immigrant, José, in order to help out. The arrival of the new farm hand has an influence on interpersonal relationships within the family. The old woman, who barely speaks any Spanish, refuses to communicate with José, but Arantxa and Ander soon get to know José quite well. The two men in particular become firm friends. After attending Arantxa's fiancés' stag night the men both wind up having sex with a prostitute, ... Written by
When I looked up some information on this film on the internet, I came across a statement from director Roberto Caston: "The film was born out of necessity. GLBT films slowly start to be produced in Spain, but none of them take place outside an urban context." I don't know much about Spanish film but I am inclined to believe that he is right about gay movies in general. I (female, no gay experiences yet) am not an expert but I have seen my share of gay movies and they were mostly about pretty muscular boys or lovely model like ladies in their apartments in the city. "Ander" is definitely not. It is a story about a not handsome, not muscular, balding, smoking peasant who is slightly on the heavy side. It makes the film all the more interesting, especially since the rural life depicted here is - I would think - unfamiliar territory for the average (gay)cinema visitor.
Ander lives a monotonous life as a farmer who also works in a factory to have some extra income. His social circle is very small: he lives with an uptight widowed mother (who is in love again but dare not show this because people might see this as disrespectful to her dead husband) and a down to earth sister who will soon marry and leave the house. His only form of entertainment is drinking with sort-of-friend Peio and every now and then having sex with hooker by necessity Reme, a woman whose husband walked out on her a few years ago, leaving her to raise a baby son.
When Ander breaks his leg and can't use it for two months, his soon to be brother-in-law recommends a Peruvian laborer, who will work for a small fee plus food and board. Enter Jose. It is clear that Ander enjoys Jose's company - it is a welcome change in his dull life and he takes him to all facets of it: he looks him up when Jose is working the land or looking after the animals, and he takes him to Peio, booze and hooker - but there are no secret glances at the dinner table, no forbidden frolicking in the fields; I think simply because Ander does not know gay. He has never seen it, it does not exist in his world. The only clue we get about Jose is that he has a picture on his nightstand of him and another man on a cycling holiday; however this picture is an ordinary holiday snap - no giveaway. If anyone asks it might be one of his three brothers.
Only after an unexpected sexual encounter between Ander and Jose does Ander realize what this means, what he is. He needs a while to let it sink in and the process is complicated by the sudden death of his mother. Reme has seen what is the matter, as she tells Jose: "I suspected as much... Ander could not take his eyes off you when you were having sex with me the other day." After a quiet but at the same time eye-opening conversation with the man his mother was in love with, it is Reme who convinces Ander to be himself, simply by asking him what he will have left after his leg will have healed and Jose will no longer be required to help out.
This film stuck in my head for quite a few days - it is powerful stuff because the story is told with few words and small gestures from unknown actors (unknown to me that is) who do a terrific job. I love over-the-top pretty boys in urban gay movies but Ander occupies a very welcome spot at the other end of the gay movie spectrum. Highly recommended!
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