The shameful secrets — some small, others life-shattering — in the lives of an everyday middle-class family drive “Pudor,” an emotionally satisfying debut by sibling helmers David and Tristan Ulloa. Gritty, sometimes grueling and with a tendency to over-schematize, the pic is nonetheless absorbing thanks to superb across-the-board perfs and a script that slowly winds its emotional spring to a cathartic final scene. Fest dates beckon, with offshore arthouse distribution an outside possibility.
Pic opens with the death of the grandmother of cute kid Sergio (Marcos Ruiz), a loner who then starts believing he’s seeing ghosts. Sergio’s grandfather (Celso Bugallo) sits at home pining for his deceased wife. Other members of the family are Sergio’s adoptive mother, Julia (Elvira Minguez), who’s receiving pornographic notes from an anonymous admirer; his father, Alfredo (Nancho Novo), who learns he has a brain tumor from doctor Juan Luis (Joaquin Clement), who’s married to Julia’s sister, Pilar (Nuria Gonzalez); and Sergio’s sister, Marisa (Natalia Rodriguez), a self-hating teen with lesbian tendencies.
Alfredo finds one of the notes in Julia’s purse and follows her on what he believes is an assignment with her lover. In turn, Julia catches Alfredo, who’s clumsily tried to have a fling with his secretary, Gloria (Carolina Roman), touching Pilar’s bottom. Though this all sounds a tad melodramatic, the script sidesteps potential excess.
Pic’s message seems to be that secrets should only be shameful when they drive families apart. Everyone here has a hidden story and is in search of affection that’s missing at home. Filmmakers also seem concerned to show this is a representative, not a dysfunctional family, cross-cutting between their separate lives and only occasionally bringing them together for some toe-curlingly embarrassing dinnertimes.
Minguez (who won the actress gong at the Malaga fest) and Novo are two underexploited talents who do rich, subtle work here –Minguez as the put-upon housewife whose needs have been forgotten by those supposedly closest to her, and Novo as a man whose every utterance is undermined by the knowledge his days are numbered.
Dialogue nicely captures the rhythms and words that skirt around unpalatable truths, and the brief moments of humor are appropriately black. Visual style is very in-your face, with lots of handheld camerawork; the droning music score augments the ominous air.