"Carol's Journey" follows a 12-year-old girl's discovery of her family roots and her own inner spunk during the late 1930s political upheaval in Spain. Too intimate to qualify as an epic, yet too often dramatically superficial for a character study, pic will work best for fans of lush period coming-of-age mellers.

“Carol’s Journey” follows a 12-year-old girl’s discovery of her family roots and her own inner spunk during the late 1930s political upheaval in Spain. Too intimate to qualify as an epic, yet too often dramatically superficial for a character study, pic will work best for fans of lush period coming-of-age mellers. Item should travel to select theatrical destinations in Spanish-speaking territories before arriving at eventful ancillary.

Accompanying her mother Aurora (Maria Barranco) from New York, pre-teen Carol (Clara Lago) comes to rural Spain for the first time during the period of uncertainty just prior to Nationalist General Francisco Franco’s ascendancy to power in 1939. The daughter of a Spanish mother and an absent American father serving as an International Brigade pilot, Carol feels awkward at first in her new environment. But under the gentle influence of her grandfather Amalio (Alvaro de Luna) and Aurora’s favorite teacher from her childhood, Maruja (Rosa Maria Sarda), the child soon feels more comfortable.

Meanwhile, Aurora is growing apart from her husband, and she may or may not carry a torch for Adrian (Carmelo Gomez), who married her sister — even though she “bores him to tears.” Plus, Aurora’s dying of an unspecified illness, and her demise half-hour of so in signals big changes for Carol. These include the ever-encroaching civil unrest in the form of the reptilian local political bully Alfonso (Alberto Jiminez) and the awakening of adolescent feelings toward Tomiche (Juan Jose Ballesta).

When Carol’s father returns unexpectedly, the resulting tensions set a chain of events in motion that take a toll in human life.

Straying somewhat afield of the rough-and-tumble noir genre pieces on which he made his name (“Numbered Days,” “Running Out of Time”), Imanol Uribe slows things down considerably to a pace best described as stately. While this may suit author Angel Garcia Roldan’s plot-packed adaptation of his own novel, over time, this measured approach leaches pic of tension. So too the story’s narrative sweep comes at the expense of any significant dramatic depth or character development: The sheer number of plot strands may work well on the page, but pic suffers when focus shifts from young people to a national conflict which in the end is only hinted at, never shown.

Adult vet thesps, many of whom have appeared in multiple Uribe pics, are fine if too often subdued. Freshest perfs come from Lago and Ballesta, each of whom has a natural ease with the camera and who play very well off each other.

Tech package is crisp and handsome, though Bingen Mendizabal’s syrupy, intrusive score is a distraction. Pic was lensed in Cantabria, Galicia and Portugal.

Carol's Journey

Spain

Production

A Sogepac presentation of an Aiete-Ariane Films, Sogecine production. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Produced by Andres Santana, Fernando Bovaira. Co-producers, Gustavo Ferrada, Jose Mazeda. Directed by Imanol Uribe. Screenplay, Angel Garcia Roldan, Uribe, from the novel "A boca de noche" by Roldan.

Crew

Camera (color), Gonzalo F. Berridi; editor, Teresa Font; music, Bingen Mendizabal; art director, Alain Bainee; sound (Dolby Digital), Gilles Ortion. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 23, 2002. Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Clara Lago, Juan Jose Ballesta, Alvaro de Luna, Maria Barranco, Rosa Maria Sarda, Carmelo Gomez, Alberto Jiminez.
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