Sunday 24 August 2008

Goin' In Blind #1 - "Only Human"

"Goin' In Blind is a series of reviews of movies that I had never heard of in any context before I picked them up off the (physical or virtual) DVD rental shelf.

Like many people who are overly obsessed with movies, I have a long bursting-at-the-seams list of films I NEED to see (not want...need). And the problem is that the damn thing never shrinks. Oh sure, I knock some of 'em off the list but not as fast as all these other damn blogs keep recommending stuff to put back on - old and new films alike.

Not a particularly terrible problem to have I suppose, but there you have it.

And yet, I still occasionally take chances on DVDs that I just stumble across and know absolutely nothing about. Squat. An interesting title, intriguing blurb or even just a good looking DVD cover might get me to take a flyer on a rental. It doesn't always work out of course, but with no expectations going in it can provide some terrific results.

Case in point - Spain's "Only Human" ("Seres Queridos") from 2004. I'm not sure what prompted me to even pick it up in the first place, but the little writeup on the DVD made it sound like it could be an enjoyable character-driven comedy. Spot on.

It's a simple outline for the plot - woman brings recent boyfriend home to meet her slightly eccentric family. Hijinks and misunderstandings follow. Through it all though, the quirks of the characters come through as being real aspects of their personalities and not just as something manufactured to make them seem more interesting. The story plays out with subtlety while also allowing for silliness. And there's the fact that Leni's new boyfriend Rafi is Palestinian while she and her family are Jewish. A minor detail that...

Things start to go wrong for Rafi early. While helping in the kitchen, he tries to amuse his girlfriend's sister's young daughter. The frozen block of soup he was trying to empty into a pot goes flying out the window...

...and knocks out a passer-by.

It goes downhill from there as Rafi begins to suspect that the knocked out man below is actually Leni's father who was on his way to join them. Through complications and misunderstandings, they don't fully figure out who the man is before he's carted away via ambulance. The meal goes on and Rafi needs to deal with the younger brother's dabbling in orthodox Judaism, the sister's flirting, the Grandfather's myriad issues and also a variety of family squabbles.

Eventually a search for Leni's Dad begins at his office building. More arguing ensues, accusations of infidelity occur and a pet duck goes missing. The timing of the comedic elements is effortless throughout and the film never misses a beat. The cast never overplay their parts and this allows the gags and script to build upon previous moments in the film. It's the kind of film that makes you rush to IMDB to find everything else the filmmakers have worked on since things obviously had a sure hand to guide them. Directors Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri don't seem to have a great deal of experience behind them, but you'd never know it.

Terrific stuff and a good way for me to start this hopefully ongoing series.


Anonymous said...

Great idea, Bob, and sounds like a great film. And sometimes it's nice to take a break from seeing the films you're "supposed" to see.

Bob Turnbull said...

Yep, absolutely James...I try to keep it jumbled - classics, foreign classics, mainstream, obscure, horror, noir, blah, blah, blah. Call me a generalist.

But yeah, this is a terrific film. Seek it out if you can.