(photo credit: Courtesy)
Amador is a movie from Spain that, given its plot, should be unspeakably
depressing but somehow manages not to be. It’s a slow-paced film that is full of
surprises, among which is the fact that although it spotlights the hard lives of
foreign workers in Europe, it is not at all preachy about it.
the actors are excellent, it is Magaly Solier in the lead role who does the most
extraordinary work. This Peruvian actress, who also starred in the acclaimed
films from her home country, Madeinusa and The Milk of Sorrow, has a quiet but
commanding screen presence.
She is also appealing, and you understand
what she is thinking at every moment. After the movie, I found myself thinking
about her at moments as if the character were actually someone I knew and not
someone I saw in a film. Solier is so gifted, that you identify with her
utterly, no matter how remote the character she plays may be from your own
she plays Marcela, a young illegal Peruvian alien in
Madrid. As the movie opens, Marcela has decided to leave her brash, egotistical
boyfriend, Nelson (Pietro Sibille). Nelson, also an illegal from Peru, has a
business where he steals flowers from a processing plant where they are
distributed and gives them to other illegals to sell on the street.
then Marcela discovers she is pregnant. Although she doesn’t tell him, she feels
she has no choice but to stay with Nelson. As they weather a crisis in his
business – the refrigerator he uses to store his flowers breaks down – she gets
a job taking care of Amador
(Celso Bugallo), a bedridden elderly man whose
family is off to oversee the construction of a new house.
The bond she
forms with Amador
is the highlight of the movie. He is melancholy and lonely,
but the dialogue between these two people – the old man confronting death and a
young woman who fears she faces a life of struggle – is fresh and believable.
The screenwriter avoids clichés by creating characters that are quirky and
vivid. Their interactions are halting and believable.
through the film, there is a game-changing plot turn that is not terribly
surprising, given the subject matter. But the director takes the film in some
surprising directions, adding some suspense and macabre humor along the
In the hands of a less original director, this would all be
unutterably bleak, but writer/director Fernando Leon de Aranoa, best known for
his drama about unemployed workers, Mondays in the Sun, has created a compelling
if difficult-to-categorize work. It’s too funny and pointed to be mentioned in
the same breath as the realistic, naturalistic films of the Dardenne Brothers,
yet it shares their political point of view.
Like the Dardennes, Aranoa
looks around hard at and doesn’t ignore anyone. Foreign workers from the Third
World living in Madrid are as complex and unpredictable as the European
characters in the film, and are not merely victims of imperialism and
capitalism. Nelson, an illegal alien himself, also exploits other, less savvy
aliens. No one in this movie is a complete villain or a blameless hero. The
prostitute who visits Amador
every Thursday, Puri (Fanny de Castro), is another
character with mixed motives and an odd point of view. The actress, who has
acted for Pedro Almodovar in such films as Volver, creates a memorable character
out of what could have been a very dull stereotype.
Celso Bugallo, a
veteran Spanish actor, is outstanding as Amador
, infusing a passive character
with charm and wisdom.
But it is Solier, who appears in virtually every
frame, who dominates the movie. Film-acting students should watch her to learn
what to do – and what to leave out.
While on paper this may not sound
like a movie you would enjoy, it is almost inexplicably entertaining while you
are watching it. If you are prepared for a quiet and precise film that deals
with universal problems, then you will enjoy Amador