Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Character and conversation as you've seldom seen 'em: Jonás Trueba's THE AUGUST VIRGIN


I suspect you'd have to go back to early Eric Rohmer to even vaguely approximate what you'll get in the new film from Madrid-born writer/director Jonás Trueba entitled THE AUGUST VIRGIN. And yet this Rohmer-esque outing is so overlayed with Spanish culture, character and language that --- other than realizing that the movie is basically all character-building via conversation -- even the low-key, ironic, philosophical and very French M. Rohmer may seem awfully far away. 

From the first scene and onward, there is such radiant warmth to this new movie, as an about-to-be-33-year-old woman meets the older man from whom she is subletting an apartment for a couple of hot August weeks -- the usual time when most Spaniards hightail it out of Madrid to let the tourists deal with the heat. Senor Trueba (shown at left) introduces us to his heroine, Eva (played by Itsaso Arana (shown above and below), who co-wrote the very good screenplay) as she meets and converses with man whose apartment she'll be living in for two weeks.

There is so much warmth and kindness expressed here that, from the outset, the movie emanates a sense of safety and good will so rare in films these days -- even in supposed comedies -- that you may not quite know what has hit you. If you're someone who demands action and adventure, you've already stopped reading. To set the record straight for the rest of you, let me not overpraise this little movie.

The August Virgin is a bit too long, and the first half is better than the second, though the latter is still quite good. But Trueba and Ms Arana have set up such an interesting character in Eva -- questioning, questing, intelligent, thoughtful, honest and hopeful -- that they don't quite deliver as fully as you may expect. Yet compared to much of what passes for adult entertainment today, they still succeed quite mightily.

The movie is full of small incident, as we follow Eva over her two-week period and meet all kinds of new characters, some of whom she already knows, others who are new to her. And though we don't come to know any of them nearly as well as we do Eva herself, each person we meet seems well worth our time and hers. 

Trueba captures the essence and enjoyment of companionship, of simply being together and savoring the moment as beautifully as few filmmakers have managed. The movie is cast exceedingly well, and every performer comes through in terms of creating a full-bodied character in the short time allotted, while entertaining us, too. Past loves appear -- one a definite "ex," the other maybe a wanna-be -- along with a slightly estranged friend and her new baby, a couple of British/Welsh ex-pats, a Reiki massage therapist who makes your period less painful, and finally a broodingly attractive fellow who seems to interest Eva in a way that is different from all the rest.

The filmmaker uses Madrid in a manner that should greatly benefit tourism (if the world ever opens up to all that once again) -- even in the heat of August. And if we leave the movie maybe wishing we'd learned just a little more about this special young woman, I think you will still be quite grateful for what you've experienced. From Outsider Pictures, in Spanish with English subtitles and running 129 minutes, The August Virgin hit virtual cinemas across the USA and Canada this past weekend. Click here for more information and to learn how and where you can view it now.

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