A stately, well-crafted, sometimes potent period drama about a family tragedy in a northern Spanish village, “Sunday Light” again shows Jose Luis Garci far from cinema’s cutting edge. Helmer’s trademarks are top-notch visuals, sentimentality, literariness, characters conceived theatrically rather than realistically and an unashamedly old-fashioned shooting style, all of which are present and correct here. Garci buffs will lap it up, but “Light” looks unlikely to illuminate non-Spanish-speaking territories. Local biz has been good for the Nov. 16 release.
In early 20th-century Spain, Urbano (Alex Gonzalez) arrives in a small village to be a secretary at the town hall. He falls for Estrella (Paula Echeverria), the daughter of local landowner Joaco (Alfredo Landa). Politically, the town is split in two, with the forces of evil repped by mayor Atila (Carlos Larranaga). Urbano tries to remain neutral but, shortly before his wedding to Estrella, his neutrality is punished when she’s raped by Atila’s sons. Classic treatment means pic’s themes never become remotely contemporary and most characters, apart from Landa’s Joaco, are brushstrokes. Lovingly lensed scenery and lush score further root things in the cinematic past.