Monday, August 12, 2013

El sexo de los ángeles

I'm always up for a good ménage à trois film, but, to be blunt, there hasn't been one until now. Last night I watched Spanish director Xavier Villaverde's El sexo de los ángeles [The Angels' Sex--please notice that a proper translation is missing from the titillating "English" poster] (2012). At first, I was concerned about liking it solely in comparison to similar films that traced the same plot lines, but I think it was actually a good film on its own.

The story follows the arc of three relationships: Bruno and Carla's, Bruno and Rai's, and Carla and Rai's. First is the pretext of the somewhat strained three-year relationship between university student Bruno and photographer Carla. They live together in her flat, which is begrudgingly provided by her parents.

Carla's father is never seen, but we hear his voice several times as he unconvincingly offers excuses for not meeting his wife and daughter for lunch. The mother's denial and rationalizations for her husband's long-term affair provides the emotional core of the film and serves as the undercurrent to Carla's emotional state. She does not want to be like her mother, and she is always provoking her mother to accept the truth of her marriage. The parents don't like Bruno, who they feel is a mooch. The opening scene mirrors the several scenes with the absent father/husband in that Bruno misses a lunch date with Carla and her parents because he's been mugged after stopping to watch some dancers on the beach.

One of those dancers is Rai, who because of his martial arts training comes to Bruno's aid. An intense emotional bond develops between the two men as Rai nurses Bruno back to health and Bruno provides his new friend a place to crash. The two men are lovely to watch, and their relationship is nicely understated. Best of all, this is not a "coming-out" film.

Even though the film employs the narrative structure of new romance, this plot is really a means to highlight the growing emotional maturity of Carla, who serves as the emotional fulcrum of the film. We get to watch her navigate through the minefield between her parents' failed marriage and the sexual easiness of her peers. And despite the movie poster's suggestive sizing, this is much more than a story about a woman who takes two lovers.

Two factors are outstanding: the characters' desire to be mature and the naturalism of the acting itself. Few things are more irritating to me than to see adults behaving as if they were spoiled children. Thankfully, Villaverde leaves the histrionics to Hollywood. And such naturalism, which is just as much a function of casting and directing as it is of acting, remains foreign to most American films, in which everything is overly staged, including the staginess of the acting.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like I will be adding a movie to my must-see movie list. Great review!

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