Welcome Home

An amiable if over-extended comic take on the transition from boyhood to manhood, David Trueba's "Welcome Home" features a baggy script that's surprisingly uneven given the quality of much of the helmer's previous work. Better in the second half, pic yokes together sexual politics and knockabout humor, whose more intimate moments hint at a subtler, more delicate piece struggling to break out.

With:
With: Alejo Sauras, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Ariadna Gil, Juan Echanove, Jorge Sanz, Concha Velasco, Vicente Haro, Javivi, Julian Villagran, Juana Acosta, Carlos Larranaga.

An amiable if over-extended comic take on the transition from boyhood to manhood, David Trueba’s “Welcome Home” features a baggy script that’s surprisingly uneven given the quality of much of the helmer’s previous work. Better in the second half, pic yokes together sexual politics and knockabout humor, whose more intimate moments hint at a subtler, more delicate piece struggling to break out. A mostly high-profile Spanish cast and broad comedy suggest pic will find a warm welcome at home. Travel is less assured. Helmer took directing honors at the recent Malaga fest.

Much time early on is dedicated to introducing us to an unlikely list of secondary characters. Wannabe photographer Samuel (Alejo Sauras) bids farewell to his country village and domineering mother (Concha Velasco) and heads for Madrid to live with independent-minded g.f., Eva (Pilar Lopez de Ayala). Offered a job by Andres (Carlos Larranaga) on his magazine, Samuel heads off with reporter Sandra (Ariadna Gil) to report on a murder.

The rest of the motley comic crew who comprise the staff include a blind film critic (Juan Echanove) with his blind guide dog. The characters offer a range of different views on love and life, ranging from cynical to sexist to self-deceived idealism.

The level of humor through the first part is of the kind where kissing couples get caught on pierced tongues.

Matters pick up somewhat after the hour mark. Sandra and Samuel implausibly embark on the trail of a gang of people traffickers, an episode symptomatic of the pic’s basic problem — that it has a lot to say about relationships, but no real vehicle for its ideas.

Plot is full of little standalone scenes that lead nowhere. Less amusing than Trueba’s previous attempt at comedy, it’s at its best when it focuses on the troubled dynamic between Samuel and Eva. Most enjoyable character by some distance is henpecked music critic Mariano (Javivi) Newcomer Sauras looks attractively innocent but fails to bring the over-passive Samuel to life.

Lopez de Ayala is a dependable actress largely wasted here, but the pic’s most effective moment is a beautifully turned one-off flashback by Eva to her childhood, revealing a delicacy and power that the pic mostly lacks. Dialogue is over-heavy with proverbs, which often are issued from unlikely mouths.

D.p. Juan Molina’s lensing is crisp and lively, with good production values across the board.

Welcome Home

Spain

Production: A Sogepaq release (in Spain) of an Fernando Trueba P.C./Ensueno Films production with the participation of Antena 3, Canal Plus. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Produced by Cristina Huete, Juan Carlos Caro, Teddy Villalba. Directed, written by David Trueba.

Crew: Camera (color), Juan Molina; editor, Manolo Huete; music, Javier Limon, Andres Calamaro; art director, Clara Notari; sound (Dolby Digital), David Mantecon. Reviewed at Malaga Spanish Film Festival (competing), March 23, 2006. Running time: 115 MIN.

With: With: Alejo Sauras, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Ariadna Gil, Juan Echanove, Jorge Sanz, Concha Velasco, Vicente Haro, Javivi, Julian Villagran, Juana Acosta, Carlos Larranaga.

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