A youthful companion piece to Fernando Trueba’s The Artist and the Model, made by his son Jonas (and dedicated to Fernando), this is another ravishing black and white reflection on the nexus of art and life – albeit a movie about movie making, not painting.
“An on-screen text opens things by stating that the film will seek to be transparent, which it pretty much achieves. Wannabe scriptwriter Leon (rumple-haired Francesco Carril) lives with wannabe actor Bruno (Vito Sanz) in the center of Madrid, leading the quasi-bohemian lives of twenty-somethings everywhere – pulling all-nighters in bars talking about life, love books and having no money. Early on, we meet the Swiss Lilian (Isabelle Stoffel), who’s decided to return home because there is no work for her in Madrid, but the rest of the characters are indeed wishful thinkers. Perhaps the most entertaining is film bookshop owner Perucho (Luis Miguel Madrid).
A wishful thinker of romance, Leon also strikes up a hesitant relationship with Sofia (the relatively well-known Aura Garrido), and together they explore Madrid by night. Trueba reinvents the capital as a film maker’s city, and many locations will be recognizable to any lover of film who has ever spent even a couple of nights there.
In the main, the actors are playing people like themselves, which gives their dialog, largely improvised anyway, a fresh, unrehearsed quality. What could so easily have become ponderous and pretentious never does, since Trueba seems determined to keep things grounded and lively. Several sequences, including one where Leon means the real-life director Javier Rebollo – a darling of the Spanish arthouse who’s duly adored by Bruno to the extent that he dreams about Rebollo – are laugh-aloud entertaining.