This deeply-felt, cleverly-conceived movie-about-making-a-movie is Spain's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Film. Though it made the nine-film shortlist, the film did not make the cut as one of the five finalists (Dogtooth did?). It's very smart about movie-making (a fact that the Academy no doubt appreciated), and while it's also progressive/liberal, it offers a keen and ironic eye for the film community's endless ability to deceive itself (something that community, perhaps, did not so much appreciate). In fact, an earlier version of the movie's poster offered this interesting and true tag line: Many want to change the world. Few want to change themselves.
Most important, Ms Bollaín, shown at right, mixes film-making with politics, economics and social justice about as well as I've seen this sort of thing handled. While its flirting with senti-mentality is never quite consummated (the screen-writer is the Ken Loach-collaborator Paul Laverty), we're left with something feel-good that's also based on historical fact: the Bolivian water crisis of 2000. The situation posits a move crew filming a Christopher Columbus tale of colonization, just as that crisis over Bolivia's water, suddenly for sale, comes to a boil. The fine ironies of exploitation -- at which the film people excel, and which the film-with-a-film is also full of -- are brought home via some stiletto-sharp writing and performing.
Gael García Bernal (below, right), Luis Tosar (below, left), Karra Elejalde, Raúl Arévalo and particularly an unforgettable newcomer named Carlos Aduviri (above), as a native Bolivian who gets himself, together with his friends and family, involved with both the movie and the water.
The film has taken some criticism about trying to "have it both ways," which strikes me as foolish. Of course the movie wants to have its cake and eat it, too. That is part of the hypocrisy at work, and there is simply no chance that the filmmaker is not acutely aware of this (she certainly makes us aware of it!). More to the point of problematic might be that last-minute conversion of one of the film's characters, while another chooses an opposite scenario. Well, it convinced me. Ms Bollaín's understanding of and correct use of actors Tosar (last year's Cell 211, who radiates about as much strength as one performer can manage) and Bernal (who, despite his great beauty and skill, has a certain innate weakness about him) make both men's final decisions ring not just true but practically unavoidable.
Even the Rain (the title of which comes from the fact that, under this new "selling" of water rights, even the rainwater will no longer be free), from Vitagraph Films, is currently playing in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and the AMC Empire 25. And probably elsewhere soon. Try to see this one, if not now, then later on DVD.