Lorenzo’s Toil would have been an apt alternative title for Medem’s fifth feature, which stretches his ambition to become more than the-one-who-isn’t-Almodovar.
Seeking escape after the death of writer Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa), his lover Lucía (Paz Vega) leaves Madrid for a remote island that sports a guest house run by Elena (Najwa Nimri). In flashback it becomes apparent that Elena had a passionate affair with the dead man, and secretly bore his child. He then began seeing Lucía, who had a fascination with his first novel. He develops writer’s block and their love suffers. Lorenzo then learns of his daughter, and travels to Madrid to find her.
They make friends, and Lorenzo is intrigued by the child’s babysitter Belén (Elena Anaya), who he seduces. Tragedy strikes that same night, and the story is propelled forward to a time when Lucía realises her life could follow an alternate path. This epiphany is far from painless…
Technology is the secret behind Medem’s leap forward in achievement: he opted to shoot in digital video, giving him the scope to experiment and improvise without wasting budget. The change also allows for an intimacy with the cast, who have obviously had time to inhabit their roles.
Vega is astonishing, a world away from her Spanish sitcom roots, becoming a sex symbol with just the right hint of vulnerability. But Medem is preoccupied with more than titilation, and his complex plot should deflate the dirty macs but inspire devotion among those craving intelligent, demanding and substantial cinema which credits an audience with the ability to think.
Spain – France | 128 minutes | 2001
Writer and Director: Julio Medem
Paz Vega as Lucía
Tristán Ulloa as Lorenzo
Najwa Nimri as Elena
Daniel Freire as Carlos/Antonio
Elena Anaya as Belén
Silvia Llanos as Luna
Diana Suárez as Madre de Belén
Javier Cámara as Pepe
Juan Fernández as Jefe
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