“Fiction” is a beautifully muted, minimalist take on two thirtysomethings tripped up by their unforeseen passion for one another. Cesc Gay’s distinctive third solo piece might look deja vu because of the similar subject matter, but in fact the assured direction, finely-calibrated scripting and nuanced, emotionally truthful perfs make it that rare item in Spanish film, an intelligent person’s romance. Although sometimes frustrating, pic’s unhurried pace doesn’t dispel its potency. “Fiction” should see fest play and consolidate Gay’s rep among discriminating offshore auds.
Suffering from screenwriter’s block, shy, ultra-reserved filmmaker Alex (Eduard Fernandez), who is married to Silvia (Agata Roca) and has two kids, heads to a village in the Pyrenees to stay with his old buddy Santi (the dependable Javier Camara, providing low-key comic relief).
At the village, Alex runs into another former acquaintance, Judith (Carme Pla), and her friend, Monica (Montse German). The attraction between Alex and Monica starts almost imperceptibly over the dinner table, and develops when the friends go horseback riding.
On a mountain walk, Alex and Monica become separated from Santi and Judith and are forced to stay overnight in a mountain shelter. The wild setting is just right for romance, but not a syllable of any romantic significance is uttered until the final cathartic minute.
It’s what isn’t said that’s important, and the script considers whether betrayal is in thought or deed, and how with every life decision, something is sacrificed.
Fernandez, like Camara, is practically a guarantor of a film’s quality. In his perhaps finest perf to date, he’s consistently riveting.
Legit thesp German holds her own, but the strongest exchanges are between Alex and Santi, two men aching to communicate but embarrassed to do so.
The vast mountainous expanses are presented as majestically indifferent to the transient uncertainties of the protags. Music effectively combines classical themes such as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio” with melodic rock from Nick Cave. On the downside, pacing sometimes comes dangerously close to stasis. As happens in Catalonia, pic moves freely between Catalan and Spanish languages, though the former dominates.