Times may change, but human emotions remain the same in writer-helmer Ventura Pons' unrelenting gloomfest "Outsiders," a claustrophobic generational study of a family that hasn't learned from its mistakes.

Times may change, but human emotions remain the same in writer-helmer Ventura Pons’ unrelenting gloomfest “Outsiders,” a claustrophobic generational study of a family that hasn’t learned from its mistakes. A definite glitch in the career of a filmmaker who’s rarely failed to be interesting, pic, based (like two previous Pons items) on a Sergi Belbel play, fails to illuminate its theme of how families engender misery and prefers just to hammer its message home. Pons-friendly fests should bite, but there’s little here to enhance his reputation.

Narrative shuttles back and forth across 40 years, the latter period rendered in slightly cheesy sepia. Tyrannical matriarch Emma (Anna Lizaran) dominates the life of husband Francesc (Joan Pera) much as, in the contempo narrative, the now-widowed Francesc (Pera, heavily made-up) dominates the lives of those around him. In the earlier story, Andalucian immigrants have moved in; in the later story, they’re North Africans. The parallels are unsubtly underscored via self-regarding dialogue that is too talky to justify its occasional insights. Perfs, especially by Lizaran, are fine, but most of the characters are too unpleasant and embittered to generate much empathy.

Outsiders

Spain

Production

A Baditri release of an Els Films de la Rambla production, in association with TVC. (International sales: Els Films de la Rambla, Barcelona.) Produced, directed, written by Ventura Pons, based on a play by Sergi Belbel.

Crew

Camera (color), Joan Minguell; editor, Pere Abadal; music, Carles Cases; art director, Bel.lo Torras. Reviewed at Cines Princesa, Madrid, Nov. 30, 2008. Catalan dialogue. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Anna Lizaran, Joan Pera, Joan Borras, Dafnis Balduz.
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