Joshua Reviews Nicolas Lopez’s Que Pena Tu Vida [SXSW 2011 Review]

What’s in a name?

Apparently, when it comes to the latest film from writer/director Nicolas Lopez, it means a lot.

Entitled Que Pena Tu Vida (Fuck My Life, or FML from here on out), this marks the third film for Spanish director Lopez, and is his take on one of the most maligned and pastiched genres around: the romantic comedy.

Drawing seemingly direct inspiration from Marc Webb’s fantastic   500 Days Of Summer, FML follows a couple as they meet, fall in love, break up, and move on in today’s social landscape.   Told through a series of flashbacks connected through interviews with the characters, the film is very much a direct descendant of many modern anti-romantic comedies/dramas, and is ultimately a welcome addition to this otherwise stale genre.

Ultimately, the film’s biggest star is its sense of humor.   Based on a script by Lopez and script ‘advisor’ Guillermo Amoedo, the film’s screenplay structurally may not be changing the world, but it’s ultimately steeped in so much truth and heart, that one can’t help but fall in love with, maybe not characters, but aspects of these characters, just like in any good relationship. Sure, these characters may have a few issues, but then again, that in and of itself may be why everyone involved is so endearing.

Also, it helps to have a really skilled filmmaker behind he camera.

Lopez may not be a well known name here in the states, but this should help do something to change that, even if it only pushes his respect needle a tad bit.   FML is such a wonderfully crafted piece of heartfelt comedy, that one can’t help but become enthralled with this world set up here.   With gorgeous cinematography, FML is a really luscious film, shot on 35mm, and holds up well against films of its ilk.  There aren’t many distinct directorial flourishes within this film, save for a few sly editing choices, particularly when texting is used during the film, but what we do ultimately get is a really well shot, that doesn’t rely on a full frame to draw in the attention of the viewer.  More comparable to a film like the underseen gem Peter & Vandy, the film is a gorgeously crafted look at relationships within a modern landscape.

Also, conceptually, the film is really relatable.   Dealing with what the modern post-breakup process is like, one may not truly enjoy or like what our lead does here, drinking and having a ton of promiscuous sex, but its ultimately a really relatable (be it directly or indirectly), and has a distinct sense of heart and truth behind it.   It’s this sense of truth that really makes an otherwise cliché premise work really well.

Performance wise, FML also really works.   Starring a cast including Ariel Levy, Lucy Cominetti, Andrea Velasco, Paz Bascuñan, Leonor Varela, Matías Lopez, Nicolas Martinez, Ramon Llao, Ignacia Allamand and Claudia Celedón, the film may not hit every note out of the park, but it does ultimately keep the viewer engrossed.   Ultimately I found the mother character to be far too cartoonish and a telenovela style caricature, as well as a policeman who ultimately plays a randomly important part in the film, but ultimately, it’s the three leads here (Levy, Cominetti and Velasco), that make this film so heartbreakingly relatable.

Levy plays the film’s lead, Javier, and is at times both disgustingly self centered and near Kanye West levels of self involvement, as well as so hell bent on finding someone to truly love and love him, that for much of the film, he’s completely oblivious to many singles coming from many angles.  The romantic comedy style plot is very much here; boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy loses girl, and on and on, but what is so interesting conceptually, is the use of interviews.  While you learn much about each character within their interactions with one another, it’s these brief interviews that tell us so very much about who each person is and their relation to one another.  It’s a refreshing stylistic choice, that ultimately pays off come the film’s final moments.  The two main women in Javier’s life are played by Cominetti and Velasco, both of which are fantastic here.  They both give relaly great performances, that play polar opposite to each other stylistically and also within the narrative.

Toss in some really great music by Manu Riveiro and editing by Diego Macho, and you have quite a shockingly solid addition to the romantic comedy landscape.

Overall, while some characters ultimately play a bit more surreal than one would truly hope, particularly for a film with such a straightforward and overdone premise, the film’s visual style and touching screenplay saves this from being yet another run of the mill indie romantic comedy.   Like a lower budget, Spanish 500 Days, this film may not have the budget backing that beloved film, but what this does have is some true heart and heartfelt truth that makes this one of the few must see members of its genre.

Que Pena Tu Vida will be screening again on:

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