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Twice Upon a Yesterday (1998, Penélope Cruz, Douglas Henshall)



panish director Maria Ripoll’s feature debut is a light but enjoyable romantic comedy which is superior in every department to the more commercially successful Sliding Doors, with which its storyline bears comparison. Henshall plays Victor Bukowski, an actor whose gloomy career prospects are the least of his problems.

His ex-girlfriend Sylvia (Lena Headey, recently seen in The Parole Officer) ditched him when he told her about an affair and is now about to marry one of his friends, Dave (Mark Strong). After failing to win her back, Victor attempts to drink his troubles away. In a suicidal mood, he’s given an umbrella by a barmaid, Diane (Elizabeth McGovern) while leaving a bar. This and a chance meeting with two poetic dustmen magically transports him back in time. He’s now given the chance to live his life again, from the moment when he told Sylvia about the affair.

He does things differently, cleans up his act (literally) and hopes that they can stay together as a couple. But while Victor can control his own actions, he can’t govern the behaviour of others and Sylvia still falls in love with Dave. Devastated by his inability to rewrite history, Victor returns to the bar where he received the umbrella – and where he meets beautiful barmaid and budding novelist Louise (Penélope Cruz)…

Twice Upon a Yesterday benefits from its Anglo-Spanish roots, balancing magic with the gritty realism of British comedies. Henshall proves himself to be an alluring romantic lead (despite his decidedly uncharacteristic leading man looks) while from her first shot – dressed in Fair Isle sweater and specs – Cruz literally smoulders and a Hollywood career already seemed inevitable.

production details
UK – Spain | 91 minutes | 1998

Director: María Ripoll
Script: Rafa Russo

Lena Headey as Sylvia Weld
Douglas Henshall as Victor Bukowski
Penélope Cruz as Louise
Charlotte Coleman as Alison Hayes
Gustavo Salmerón as Rafael
Mark Strong as Dave Summers
Elizabeth McGovern as Diane