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The Spanish-language debut from Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) boasts a stellar cast. Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem headline as Laura and Paco, former lovers who are reunited at the wedding of her sister. It’s a boozy, exuberant event which, like much of the film, is slightly undermined by a theatrical artificiality in some of the performances. The story changes gear when Laura realises that her teenage daughter has been kidnapped; the bonhomie fractures and the already densely populated story has to make room for a parade of skeletons from the family closet.
The low-key, humanistic approach of Farhadi’s best work is absent here. This mystery, set in Spain’s wine country, is a full-bodied melodrama, full of soapy reveals and strident confrontations. But while it’s not vintage Farhadi, the film has merits, not least the magnificent Bárbara Lennie. As Paco’s wife, she is propelled into her own personal crisis. The lure of Lennie’s luminous restraint, a contrast to the wailing and gnashing of teeth elsewhere, means that we care as much about the state of her character’s marriage as we do about the simmering grudges and missing children.
Source: The Guardian
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